Foul-smelling toxic foam spewing from polluted river takes over Colombian city

Photos from a Columbian city near Bogota show how a foul-smelling, massive layer of toxic foam is plaguing residents as it breaks apart into cloud-like fragments and drifts through the streets. 

The foam has drifted into yards and businesses in the city of Mosquera, located about 12 miles outside Bogota, the capital. Environmental authorities blame discharges from an industrial zone, as well as chemicals in household detergents, collectively whipping up the foam. Heavy rains have also added to the problem.

"The smell is terrible – (and) we’ve had to put up with this foam for a long time," community leader Luz Mariela Gómez told local television channels, according to the Guardian. "We’re running a risk. Someone could fall down there and we won’t be able to find them."

Gonzalo Roa, who has lived in the neighborhood for 40 years, blamed the contamination for causing respiratory problems in children.

"We've had many years of this situation," he said.

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Cyclists ride by pungent foam which formed in a polluted river and invaded the Los Puentes neighbourhood, in Mosquera, west of Bogota, on April 26, 2022. (Photo by JUAN BARRETO/AFP via Getty Images)

The foam is usually created when a narrowing of the river or a bridge creates turbulence in the contaminated water, said Luis Alejandro Camacho Botero, an expert on environmental hydraulics at the University of the Andes.

Botero said similar problems exist along other rivers, including the Bogota River and warned they will bring public health problems if not controlled.

Mosquera Mayor Gian Gerometta shared a Twitter thread about the issue, noting officials are "aware of the risks that can arise due to this phenomenon," according to an English translation.

Edwin García, director of the environmental laboratory for the Cundinamarca region, said authorities are trying to monitor and reduce the problem and have installed a water treatment plant.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report. It was reported from Cincinnati.