Green but Not Clean? How Safe Is River O’ Green Dye

By Alejandro Ramirez

After a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Tampa Bay’s Hillsborough River flowed green this past Sunday, March 13.

The River O’ Green Fest, organized by Grow Financial federal credit union, serves as a celebration before the parades and celebrations of St. Patrick’s Day on March 17. 

According to the Tampa Bay Times, the event was first started in 2012 by the former mayor of Tampa, Bob Buckhorn. The Irish-themed party was at the Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and included live entertainment, games, kid’s activities, food trucks, and beers. In the backdrop of this, at 11 a.m., the Hillsborough River was dyed green.

Some University of Tampa students, such as Courtney Schaefer, economics and mathematics double major, have had some concern over whether or not the dye used to dye the Hillsborough River green is as biodegradable as the City of Tampa suggests it is. 

According to the official website of the River O’ Green Fest, the dye being used is non-toxic, biodegradable, and safe for the environment.

According to Schaefer, she has thought about whether or not it was safe for the environment, but ultimately felt that the City of Tampa wouldn’t choose to use a dye that is harmful to the environment.

“I also considered that the City of Tampa might use something that was environmentally safe since we are in Florida and the environment tends to be an important aspect here to consider,” said Schaefer. 

This general concern is something that even some professors feel.

“The concern is important and interesting, it is something that I have often wondered myself,” said Nicole Ortega, assistant professor of chemistry. 

After doing some research, it seems like this is the case.

It is a dye called Bright-Dyes, owned by the company Kingscote Chemicals, and is labeled as an environmentally-friendly dye that is certified by National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) International. 

NSF International is an organization that works to improve public health by testing products in order to make sure that they are safe to use.

300 gallons of the dye are used in the river on the day of the event. 

According to an article by the Tampa Bay Times, Bright-Dyes is often used to detect leaks in water distribution systems and is used by the US military to mark locations in search and rescue missions at sea.

According to Ortega, in order to determine if the dye is biodegradable, we would need to actually conduct a study to determine the longevity of the compounds in the water. 

The City of Tampa’s water production manager, John Ring, was present during the testing of the dye in the river before the March 13 event. 

“”Looks like things are ready and we’re ready to turn the river green,” said Ring in an article by Fox

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