St. Patrick’s Day Secrets: The Environmental Effects of Dyeing the Chicago River
Most Americans celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in the traditional, festive way: often decked out head to toe in green, making merry at parties and parades, with, perhaps, a pint or two. One of the most iconic St. Patty’s celebrations is in Chicago, where for nearly six decades, thousands have flocked to the banks of the Chicago River to watch it turn green. The dyeing of the river is heralded as the kick-off to Chicago’s St. Patty’s Day festivities.
So how safe is the dyeing of the Chicago River? Many question what the dye is made of and are concerned about the environmental hazards of dyeing such a large body of water the color of radioactive sludge. Organizers say the dye is vegetable-based (it’s actually orange until it makes contact with the water), but no one is completely certain, except for the small group in charge of dyeing the river. This group refuses to reveal their age-old secrets. They do say that the dye is completely harmless, and major environmental groups don’t argue. The National Resources Defense Council says there are much more serious ecological issues with the river than a day of dyeing.
River advocates aren’t so easily swayed. They contend that the celebratory act sends the wrong message and does indeed have detrimental effects on the area’s ecosystem. Representatives from the Friends of the Chicago River explain that fish and wildlife live in the river and when the city embraces its coloring as “urban decoration,” this encourages others to treat the river as a trash can. The river, they say, is an animal habitat and a connected piece of the water system at large.
Our water supply – both in and outside Chicago – is an invaluable national resource. Without clean water, we cannot survive. Keeping our streams, rivers and oceans should be of vital importance to all of us.
Do you have concerns regarding the water supply in your city and around the world? Are you interested to learn how your daily water usage affects ecosystems? For more information on how you can contribute to a sustainable water supply, check out this information on terrapass Water Restoration Credits (WRCs). For just $2, you can purchase a credit that will restore 1,000 gallons of water to critically depleted ecosystems. WRCs support sustainable water use across the United States, making it a cleaner, greener place for all of us.
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