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Mon Mar 15, 2021, 09:37 AM

How Do They Dye the Chicago River Green for St. Patrick's Day?


It wouldn’t be a St. Patrick’s Day celebration in the Windy City without 400,000 spectators crowding the banks of the Chicago River to “ooh” and “aah” at its (temporarily) emerald green tinge. But how do officials turn the water green?

First, a bit of history: The dyeing tradition became an annual thing nearly 60 years ago, in 1962, but its real origins go back even further. In the early days of his administration as Mayor of Chicago, Richard J. Daley was a man on a mission to develop the city’s riverfront area. There was just one problem: The river itself was a sewage-filled eyesore. In order to get to the bottom of the city’s pollution problem and pinpoint the exact places where waste was being discarded into the waterway (and by whom), Daley authorized the pouring of a special green dye into the river that would allow them to see exactly where dumping was occurring.

Fast-forward to late 1961 when Stephen Bailey—part of the Chicago Journeymen Plumbers Local, the city’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade chairman, and a childhood friend of Daley’s—witnessed a colleague’s green-soaked coveralls following a day of pouring Daley’s dye into the Chicago River. That gave Bailey an idea: If they could streak the Chicago River green, why not turn it all green?

Three months later, revelers got their first look at an Ecto Cooler-colored river when the city poured 100 pounds of the chemical into the water. They got a really good look, too, as the river remained green for an entire week.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who was curious about this. Photo and more info at link.

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Reply How Do They Dye the Chicago River Green for St. Patrick's Day? (Original post)
IronLionZion Mar 15 OP
Donkees Mar 15 #1

Response to IronLionZion (Original post)

Mon Mar 15, 2021, 11:07 AM

1. Friends of the Chicago River 🦦

Because the North American river otter lives both on the land and in the water, it is the perfect ambassador species for Friends of the Chicago River as we strive to reach the goal of a first class environment for the people, plants, and animals that share it.

Highly social, playful, and possessing seemingly unlimited energy, otters are a joyful sight to the lucky observer and a returning otter is an indisputable sign that the Chicago River is making great strides in its recovery. Yet the river otter is highly sensitive to environmental pollution relying on the river for hunting, frolicking, traveling, and as a refuge from danger, so clean water and healthy habitats are essential. The Chicago River is not yet a preferred home for the river otter. A pinnacle species in the food chain, river otters exemplify the need for comprehensive and continued river restoration and improvement, benefits that will greatly impact people too.



Around 70 fish species can now be found in the river, where only a handful used to survive. Even river otters have been spotted again after roughly 100 years.

Though the organization has conceded that the dye itself may not be harmful, it argues that the very practice of using it fosters an unhealthy relationship between Chicagoans and their river. Rather than view the waterway as an accessory to be customized for cultural events, the argument goes, the river should be seen and respected as the habitat that it is.

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