War Hazard Eliminated. Lake Effects Unknown?

Well, that’s one way of getting rid of surplus sodium. Thankfully, what is/isn’t an appropriate use of our freshwater lakes seems to have evolved a bit since the late 1940’s.
The unfortunate scene of this science experiment is Lake Lenore in eastern Washington State. While the effusive narrator states “the alkali lake is devoid of fish and forms an admirable disposal spot,” it’s hard to imagine no negative impacts from an addition of 10 tons of metallic sodium to the water. Besides, the “devoid of fish” remark isn’t exactly true, at least not today. Today Lake Lenore (also known as Lenore Lake) is a popular spot for fly fishermen chasing cutthroat trout. Just don’t drink the water.
This post-World War II footage was being showcased on Discover magazine’s “Bad Astronomy” blog where blogger Randall Munrion explains the highly entertaining reactions, writing:
“Sodium is highly reactive. It’s way over on the left side of the periodic table, which means it really wants to give an extra electron to any receptive atom or molecule that happens by. Water will happily accept that electron, but at a cost: the reaction creates sodium hydroxide (NaOH) and hydrogen gas (H2). It also generates a lot of extra energy in the form of heat. A lot. And there’s hydrogen around. Remember the Hindenburg?”
Today, lakes don’t need to worry about the “War Assets Administration,” rolling explosive barrels down their banks. Sodium, however, hasn’t been tabled as a threat. Nowadays it gets into the water as a crucial component to road salt. The effect is less telegenic, but probably a bigger threat.

Lenore Lake, site of explosive/entertaining sodium disposal in 1947 Photo Courtesy of University of Washington libraries

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