A coastal area on the Reykjanes Peninsula where warm water runs off from the Reykjanes geothermal power station is still marked as a bathing spot in some online locations despite the power company’s best efforts to discourage swimming and warn people of the dangers, RÚV reports. Recently, a fatal accident occurred in the area when strong currents pulled a swimmer in his thirties out to sea. In addition to the danger of strong currents, the temperature of the run-off water can also change suddenly and dramatically, adding to the danger.
When swimming pools were closed due to the pandemic in the spring of 2020 HS Orka staff started noticing more traffic by the water close to Reykjanesvirkjun geothermal power station, where hot run-off water flows towards the sea. People started to bathe in the warm ocean water and posting pictures on social media. HS Orka called a meeting with emergency responders in the area, consulting them on how best to improve warning signs and increase security in the area, and issued statements to the public, warning them of the danger. While the run-off water is usually at around 35°C [95°F], the temperature can increase dramatically without warning, getting as hot as 100°C [212°F].
Jóhann Snorri Sigurbergsson with HS Orka told RÚV that they’ve done everything in their power to ensure that people are aware that bathing in the area is strictly forbidden and that the temperature of the water can change suddenly and dramatically. The area also has heavy currents and fire, so bathers are putting themselves in extreme danger. Signs have been put up with detailed information about the threat in several languages, a chain blocks the way to the water and cones have been put up where they believe people are most likely to stop their cars when going bathing. The area gets fewer swimmers now but people still risk it, and earlier this month an individual in their thirties died when the waves pulled him away from land after bathing in the powerplant run-off.
Jóhann believes there’s nothing more they can do to keep people from bathing, stating that the area is large and it’s difficult to block all access to the coast. Nature’s forces keep them from closing the area off more than they do already as strong currents and waves crash on the beach, tearing away gates and closures. According to Jóhann, the currents are also the reason they can’t divert the power station run-off further out to sea.
Despite signs and warnings on the location, there is still information about the bathing spot online, such as on Google Maps. “That’s the main problem with Google maps and other such websites, it’s harder to get something taken out than putting it in. But we’re working on getting it taken out so it’s not marked as a bathing spot. It’s a complicated and hard process and hard to figure out what the best way is., Jóhann states.