Harmless red dye will be released into Lacamas Creek

Department of Ecology will begin research project this week

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Weather permitting, scientists from the Washington Department of Ecology will release a harmless fluorescent dye into Lacamas Creek and its tributaries tonight and the evenings of Wednesday and Thursday.

The harmless dye helps researchers track the speed of the stream flow. It dissipates quickly and should be gone by morning.

“We want residents along the creek to know that they shouldn’t worry if they see a reddish, fluorescent color in the creek in next few days,” said Brett Raunig, a water cleanup coordinator with Ecology who is managing the project.

“Research has shown the dye doesn’t affect human, fish or wildlife health in any way at the very low concentrations we use, and it is commonly used for this type of scientific study,” Raunig said.

The research is part of Ecology’s efforts to define and correct the creek’s water quality problems. Lacamas Creek fails water quality standards for fecal coliform bacteria, temperature, dissolved oxygen levels as well as being too acidic and too alkaline in different locations.

Researchers will track the plume of the dye with a fluorometer, a device that measures dye concentration in the water. Tracking the dye allows researchers to see where water moves quickly or slowly through given stretches. The information will be incorporated into a computer model to help scientists understand how to improve the creek’s overall water quality.

“The information will help us develop a plan for reducing heat and improving dissolved oxygen levels in the creek water,” Raunig said.

Water that is too warm or has too little oxygen can harm fish populations. Ecology wants to better understand how long water is exposed to direct sunlight and how long it takes water to move through different reaches of the creek.

Following this dye release, scientists will be on site to test water quality parameters and examine factors that could lead to higher water temperatures, such as the lack of shade around the creek.

Ecology has already received permission from property owners to access the sampling sites.

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