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Q & A
Foam on Water
Question
Every morning there are massive amounts of foam floating down the Conodoguinet Creek. It looks like dirty Styrofoam, but it isn't that firm. Some are huge chunks. Apparently this starts up in Carlisle somewhere. It only occurs in the early morning hours. Are you aware of this and could you tell me what it might be from? Is it dangerous to children and animals in the water in these early hours?
Answer
The answer to your question is best answered by a water chemistry specialist and/or public health specialist. The water chemistry specialist can offer some description about the foam phenomenon, and public health specialist can provide advice about contact with surface water in your area. As a fisheries biologist I cannot advise you how to use or play in the water you describe, for more on the safe use of the water, you should contact the PA Department of Environmental Protection and/or PA Department of Health.

Some foam on streams is naturally occurring, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection provides the best explanation I have seen offered for this sometimes common phenomenon on their website at http://www.maine.gov/dep/water/lakes/foam.html.

Generally, foam on natural waters is often caused by natural phenomenon unless it has a perfume smell typical of many soaps and detergents. Natural materials occurring in water (algae) or leached from the soil that reduce the surface tension of water have the ability to produce foam.

These explanations are very general based upon your descriptions without any water chemistry testing.

Robert M. Lorantas
Warmwater Unit Leader

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FOAM -- A cause for concern?–Maine DEP
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