Musings of a Museum Fanatic: Chicago St. Patrick's Day River Dyeing

3.23.2016

Chicago St. Patrick's Day River Dyeing

St. Patrick's Day is a big deal in Chicago and one of the most iconic parts of the celebrations is the dying of the Chicago river green. Since it always brings in the big crowds I've always stayed away but when I made my new 101 list I thought I should be a good Chicagoian an experience it first hand. When Becky suggested we have our stay-cation the weekend of March 12th I knew I had to make sure I got downtown with enough time to see the river dyeing in person.

Over fifty years ago the tradition of dyeing the river green arose by accident when plumbers used fluorescein dye to trace sources of illegal pollution discharges and the dyeing of the river is still sponsored by the local plumbers union today. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has since outlawed the use of fluorescein for this purpose, since it was shown to be harmful to the river. The committee now uses a closely guarded secret formula vegetable dye that only lasts for so long.









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