Waters near Whidbey Island will be dyed red for sewage study


For immediate release: September 7, 2022 (22-135)

Contact: Communications from the Ministry of Health

Study will assess safety of shellfish growing areas in Oak Harbor

OLYMPIA – The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) will be working in the waters around Whidbey Island Sept. 9-14 to assess the movement of sewage near the new drinking water facility. Oak Harbor (CWF) and its potential impacts on nearby shell growing areas. . A red dye will be added to the water on the morning of Monday, September 12 and may be visible in and around Oak Harbor for approximately 24 hours.

The fluorescent dye – rhodamine – is an Environmental Protection Agency and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved non-toxic dye that is not harmful to people, marine life or the environment. DOH and FDA scientists will add the dye to treated wastewater from the facility and track the movement of the water. The main objective of the study is to assess the potential impact of the plant on the growing areas of Saratoga Passage and Penn Cove.

Construction of the CWF was completed in 2019. The dye study was originally planned for 2019, but was delayed due to technology issues and delayed again to 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The study is a partnership between the Department of Health, FDA, Department of Ecology, City of Oak Harbor, Island County, and local shellfish growers. The DOH is responsible for the safety of shellfish harvested commercially in the state. For more information on current advisories, visit the Washington Shellfish Safety Mapupdated daily.

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