Red dye going into Housatonic

The Connecticut Department of Agriculture is telling residents not to be alarmed if the Housatonic River runs red. A study over the next two weeks of how wastewater affects oysters growing in the Housatonic River and Long Island Sound will include use of a dye that will briefly turn a portion of the river reddish.

The Department of Agriculture said the process is harmless in an announcement Monday.

The study, being conducted from May 8-17, will track the flow and dispersion of wastewater discharging into the Housatonic River and Long Island Sound from the Stratford and Milford Housatonic water pollution control facilities.

On the evening of May 7, dye will be released from the Stratford water control plant, and will continue for 12 hours until approximately 9:30 a.m. May 8.

The second dye injection, at the Milford Housatonic WPCF, will begin early on May 14 and continue through midday.

Portions of the Lower Housatonic River visible from the shores of Stratford and Milford may turn reddish in color for a brief time. The dye, called Rhodamine WT, is not harmful to people or the ecosystem according to the Department of Agriculture.

“The Housatonic is one of Connecticut’s most important natural oyster-producing areas,” Commissioner Steven K. Reviczky said. “This study will evaluate the impact of wastewater discharges on shellfish growing in the river and will help determine where they can be safely harvested.”

The goal of the project is to expand oyster growth and cultivation in the river while protecting public health and oyster habitat through science-based management practices, according to the state. The study is part of an ongoing oyster resource-enhancement project developed by Department of Agriculture Director David Carey and staff at its Bureau of Aquaculture.
Scientists and engineers from Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s New England Regional Laboratory, and staff from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Shellfish Sanitation Program will conduct the study.

Stratford water pollution control facility will release red dye into Housatonic River as part of a oyster study. Greg Reilly photo.

Stratford water pollution control facility will release red dye into Housatonic River as part of a oyster study. Greg Reilly photo.

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