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Freaking out about foam? While it may look scary, it is normally a natural phenomenon where soil proteins and decaying organic matter (breaking down to fatty acids, lignin, etc.) create natural surfactants that mimic soap and cleaning agents. Foam can be exacerbated by erosion of soils and excess organic matter entering streams during big runoff events in spring and fall. It’s not normal to see foam in January, but conditions the last week have been very spring like! ...

River Foam below the Thiensville-Mequon Dam today Thanks Milwaukee Riverkeeper for the following info: "Generally speaking, river foam is a pretty common and natural phenomena during runoff events (generally early spring and fall--although its feeling springy out there), and its common to see it below dams and falls like the Thiensville Dam where there is agitation of the water. Dissolved organic matter from leaf litter, soil, and aquatic plant breakdown (that breaks down to lignin, tannins, fatty acids) make the water wetter(les surface tension), similar to man-made surfactants (like you would find in household detergents). Most foam ends up being natural and can even be an indicator of a healthy stream. Excessive foam CAN be exacerbated by erosion, runoff, and other discharge that is sending high amounts of organic matter and soils into the stream all at once."

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