Even with officials from several government entities keeping watch, the Rogue River Dyer (or dyers) managed to elude detection as they dumped colorant into the North Branch of the Chicago River, turning it bright St. Patrick’s Day green over the weekend.
A passerby snapped a photo Sunday afternoon of the unmistakably fluorescent water, as viewed from a bridge at Kedzie Avenue, and shared it with WTTW News.
The sanctioned dyeing of the Chicago River — a St. Paddy’s tradition since the 1960s — had taken place the previous day Downtown along the Riverwalk. Friends of the Chicago River had hoped to discourage what’s become a secondary annual occurrence — an unsanctioned dye job on the upper North Branch — by announcing that conservation police would be out in force, on guard for suspicious activity.
But the culprit, whoever they may be, was not deterred.
The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District received a tip via its 800-332-DUMP hotline that offenders had dumped a powdered substance in the river near Pulaski and Foster avenues, according to the agency’s spokeswoman Allison Fore.
“We have not observed ill effects to the wildlife or fish in that area,” Fore said. “The MWRD works hard to protect our waterways and does not support anything being deposited into the Chicago River or area waterways. We appreciate the diligence of the public and encourage them to use our 24-hour hotline and citizen incident reporting system at mwrd.org.”
Chicago’s Downtown St. Patrick’s Day parade and the river dyeing are organized by Plumbers Local 130.
Though the dye used in the river is billed as a secret, it was approved by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, which did not respond to a request for comment from WTTW News.
In recent years, organizations including Friends of the Chicago River have called for an end to the river dyeing. Whether the chemicals are toxic or not, they argue, the practice sends the message that it’s OK to pollute the waterway.
WTTW News put the question to readers. The results of our admittedly unscientific Twitter poll show that Chicagoans still lean toward the greening o’ the river, with 57% in favor and 43% against.
Is it time to stop dyeing the Chicago River green for St. Patrick's Day?
— WTTW (Chicago PBS) (@wttw) March 11, 2022