A turquoise lake in Siberia has become a sparkling background for Instagram photos, drawing so many people that a nearby coal plant operator had to issue a warning: It's not a pristine oasis, it's a chemical dump.
"You can not swim in the ash dump," the Siberian Generating Company said in a statement after its artificial lake became a "star of social networks."
That, of course, hasn't stopped people from trekking to the lake that some have dubbed the "Novosibirsk Maldives" for its tropical appearance. Some show up in swimsuits; one couple took wedding pictures there; and at least a handful have ventured into the dreamlike, but toxic, waters on paddleboards or pool floats.
Officially, the Siberian Generating Company refers to the turquoise body of water as the waste site for Heating and Electrical Station No. 5.
The water is not poisonous, the company stressed in its statement on June 10, but it noted that "skin contact with such water may cause an allergic reaction." It also tried to dispel other false rumors, including that plants are dying near the water or that there is a blue seagull that flies nearby.
Despite the possible allergic reaction if touched, the radiation level of the water is normal, the company said. "Two INDEPENDENT laboratories concluded this," it added.
The lake gets its vibrant blue color from chemicals produced at the plant. Calcium salts and other metals dissolve from coal ash that is dumped into the water through pipes coming from the heating and electrical station.
One person who recently posted a selfie there noted the water was "warm and tastes sweetish," but didn't recommend others try it: "It's better not to repeat."
The lake has become so popular that at least one Instagram account has sprouted up to repost all the pictures from the toxic site.
With the growing popularity of the lake, the energy company is now trying to reach people to warn them of the risks.
"We ask that in the pursuit of the selfie, not to fall into the ash dump!" the company said. "That is the main danger."
Other dangers are less obvious, the company added.
Ash dumped into the lake has made its floor extremely muddy and "getting out of the reservoir alone is almost impossible," it said.
Still, some people just had to get wet to get that 'gram.
"The next morning my feet are slightly turned red and itched for two days," Instagram user tweezer_nsk posted with a picture of a man floating on the water in a black ski mask and inflatable unicorn. "Water tastes slightly sour, similar to chalk."
But most visitors appear to have been cautious enough to stick to the shore.
One woman, posing with a wreath she sells online, wrote in Russian that she had recently read an article about the toxicity of the lake and "was horrified."
"The color of the water is fascinating, the photos are beautiful," she wrote. "The entrance is prohibited, but since this whole thing is not fenced, it means we can 😀"