Dye is cast, temporarily paints creek red

Photo provided


JASPER — Was it a sign?

The way this year has been going, should we be surprised that a Jasper creek feeding into the Patoka River turned a fluorescent, bloody red on Monday evening?

Maybe not. But you should know that the spooky, horror movie-esque water was not tinted by gore or dangerous chemicals.

That out-of-the-ordinary shade was instead the result of dye that, while visually alarming, is not damaging to the creek’s ecosystem.

“I looked it up — it’s nonhazardous, it’s environmentally friendly,” said Chad Mundy, the city’s stormwater coordinator. “When I was doing the inspection, I was checking out aquatic life, and the aquatic life didn’t seem to be affected.”

Mundy’s job requires him to be a detective at times. Monday, before he knew the cause of the creek’s burgundy conversion, his investigation into the source of the disturbance began with a phone call from a concerned pedestrian on the Jasper Riverwalk.

The local stormwater expert shipped out to the scene, located the creek, followed it through the woods to 15th Street, and continued tracking down the colored water’s origin until he found the trail’s beginning.

A street inlet near the corner of 15th and Cherry streets with a red stain on the surface. Sixteen ounces of quick-spreading dye — a drop of which can transform the hue of a big quantity of water — had been poured down that drain.

Meyer Distributing’s maintenance team sent colorant down the inlet to identify if it was linked to water seeping into the basement of the company’s building at 1108 E. 15th St. This is a standard practice, Mundy said.

“The city of Jasper uses dyes,” he explained. “Industry uses dyes, so plumbers can use the dyes as well. I think they [Meyer] probably used a little too much.”

Tracing dyes help pourers understand the direction that water flows, Mundy said.

After being dumped into this particular inlet, the dye entered a storm sewer, then went into a pipe that runs south behind MasterBrand Cabinets and Kimball Office before entering the unnamed creek that connects to the Patoka River and stirring uneasiness in those who caught glimpses in person and online.

“There was a little bit of freak out, I think,” Mundy said of the situation, adding that the discoloration could have been caused by a spill, and that until he knows for sure, he has to assume the worst.

Still, Mundy suspected that the culprit was dye due to the water’s bright color and overall appearance. He estimated that the redness had already dissipated 90% by Tuesday, and said he imagined the water returned to its normal color by early Wednesday afternoon.

Mundy praised those who reached out and reacted to the creek’s startling change.

“When you see things like this, feel free to report it,” he said. “Call city hall, call myself. The sooner I find out, the sooner we can respond. And some of that, if it were a true spill, we can contain it.”

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