DEQ injects red dye into bayou

DONALDSONVILLE, LA (WAFB) - The water in Bayou Lafourche, is usually a little murky. But Tuesday morning when residents saw a very different shade of water, they wanted to know what was going on. What they saw, was bright red water making it's way down stream. But the Department of Environmental Quality says the change in color is actually more of a safety precaution.

A small crowd of residents and workers stood on a bridge in Donaldsonville, watching red water flow below.

"People think it's blood," said Mayor Leroy Sullivan.

The red color ran off some fisherman, who are usually on the banks.

"It's Rhodamine Wt 20% dye. Not harmful, approved by the EPA," said David Greenwood, with DEQ.

Just after 8:00 a.m., DEQ poured about three gallons of red dye into Bayou Lafourche. It's part of a time travel study being done on the water in bayou.

"How long it takes this water, this slug of water to get from point A to B to point C," Greenwood said.

The Bayou Lafourche Freshwater District pumping station in Donaldsonville feeds water from the Mississippi River into Bayou Lafourche, which flows down to Thibadoux. For some, the water in the bayou is drinking water.

Freshwater District workers need to know if a chemical ever gets into the water: how quickly do they need to shut the pumps down before it reaches down stream and when do they turn them back on.

"Having to turn the water off in Donaldsonville, we didn't know how it affected communities downstream. So this will see how long it takes if there's a spill into the bayou, how long will it take to reach downstream communities," the mayor said.

Monitors are set up along the bayou to track how fast the red dye moves.

"We're taking it 16 miles from Mississippi levee," Greenwood said.

Mayor Sullivan says this is a proactive process. Getting the answers now, instead of asking questions later - possibly during a crisis.

Tuesday's test was with just two pumps running, DEQ will come back and do the same test when all three pumps are running. The red dye, we're told disappears within four or five hours.

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