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A pond in a Hawaiian wildlife refuge has mysteriously turned bright pink. The phenomena has attracted a rush of visitors to take pictures of the Pepto Bismol-tinted waters, but officials have warned them to take caution, as research is still being done into what specifically is causing the coloration.
The pink water is located at the Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge on Maui. Officials have been monitoring the phenomena since Oct. 30. “I just got a report from somebody that was walking on the beach, and they called me up like, ‘There’s something weird going on over here,’” Bret Wolfe, the refuge manager, told the Associated Press.
Water samples were taken and sent to the University of Hawaii, according to the US Fish and Wildlife service. Preliminary analysis found that the pink color is most likely not due to toxic algae (such as the algae that causes red tides). Instead, the culprit is probably a single-celled organism called halobacteria. “Halobacteria are salt-loving organisms found in high salinity water bodies,” wrote the USFWS. “The salinity in the Kealia Pond outlet is currently greater than 70 part per thousand, or twice the salinity of seawater.” The University of Hawaii is continuing to analyze the sample to find the specific strain of halobacteria. In the Meantime, the USFWS recommends that people not enter the water, consume fish from the water, or allow pets to drink from the water.
As the AP reports, scientists believe an ongoing drought in Maui may be the cause of the pink water. Normally, Waikapu Stream feeds into Kealia Pond and raises water levels there, but the lack of fresh water has allowed the halobacteria to grow. Officials hope that rainfall will reduce the salinity and return the water to its normal color.