How Do They Dye the Chicago River Green?


Every year, the Chicago Plumbers Union dyes the Chicago River a bright Kelly Green as part of this town’s huge St. Patrick’s Day celebration.   How do they do it?  And does it hurt the environment?

They do it by mixing an orange (!) powder into the river near Michigan Ave.  The powder is normally used to detect leaks in plumbing.  It has the delightful byproduct of turning the water just the a sort of electric green that really stands out.  Though not entirely benevolent, the chemical is a very minor insult to the river which has suffered 150 years or so of industrial pollution.   If the river is ever cleaned up, then the dye might be a problem.  Until then, it isn’t even an issue to the environmental group Friends of the Chicago River.

This article describes how plumbers’ chief Stephen Bailey started the traditon.

Happy St. Pat’s!  Raise a pint to dear old Ireland (but don’t fall in the river.)

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