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China river turns blood red: Natural phenomenon, biblical plague, or act of men?

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Strange news out of China this week as it was reported that a waterway in Zhejiang province temporarily turned blood red. Experts and the average citizen alike are puzzled by the sudden color alteration.

NBC News reported July 26 that villagers along the waterway said it looked normal until about 5 a.m. Thursday morning and then, within minutes, it darkened and turned blood red. To make matters worse, when locals dipped containers and bottles into the water, they became filled with red-colored liquid that had a foul smell. In an area that prides itself on its clean-flowing waterway, the river that resembled blood was not only shocking, it was disconcerting, a bit troubling.

Still, within a dozen hours, the river returned to its normal color, flowing along as if nothing had occurred.

One local, Na Wan, said of the blood red river to Daily Express (via RT): "The really weird thing is that we have always been able to catch fish and you can even drink the water because it's just normally so good. Nobody has any idea how it could have ended up being polluted because there are no factories that dump anything in the water here."

So was there some kind of biblical plague at work or some type of divine leverage going on, a la "The Ten Commandments?" Hardly. Many eschewed superstition for something a bit more mundane, an act of men -- namely: the illegal dumping of dyes and/or chemicals into the river.

Inspectors from the Wenzhou Environmental Protection Bureau said, according to ABC News, that they have yet to find a cause for the discoloration, although samples of water taken from the river seem to indicate illegal dumping could very well be the cause of the reddening of the waterway.

The problem, as noted by NBC News, is that there are no dye factories along the river. However, authorities believe the illegal materials might have been transported to be dumped.

China has a precedent in colored rivers. In fact, in 2012, according to the Daily Mail, the Yangtze River turned an orange-red around the city of Chongqing as well. The year before, the Jian River in the area around the city of Luoyang turned a bright red. Government officials discovered that a dye company had illegally dumped chemicals into the river and subsequently raided its facility, shut it down and dismantled its machinery.

But could there be another answer to the red river mystery in China? Could the phenomenon be a natural development?

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, there is a phenomenon scientists call a Harmful Algal Bloom -- and laymen call "red tides" -- that can make the surrounding water in which it proliferates turn red. As the name suggests, it is harmful, releasing toxins into the water that can kill aquatic life and potentially be fatal to humans. They can appear in both freshwater and seawater.

But most believe that the eventual cause will be discovered to be pollutants. One environmental expert stated, according to NBC News, "We suspect that maybe somebody drove here to dump stuff. We are looking further upstream to try and find out where the source was of this pollution."

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