SPOKANE, Wash – It was quite a sight Monday morning as scientists with the Washington Department of Ecology dumped two liters of harmless fluorescent dye into the Little Spokane River in Wandermere, instantly turning the rushing waters a roaring red.
They're testing 40 miles of river from Camden to the mouth of the Little Spokane River because parts of it don't meet water quality standards for temperature, bacteria and other potential problems, which can lead to endangering fish or excessive algae growth.
"We already know the little Spokane river has issues with temperature, pH and dissolved oxygen, so knowing better how the system works helps us do a better job at cleaning it up."
The dye helps scientists track how fast the water is moving and collect new data using a tool called a Hydro Lab Multi Meter.
"It's a fluorescent probe that reads fluorescents of dye so it'll shoot a light out and read the fluorescents in the water and it can convert that to concentration of dye," explained Environmental Specialist Scott Tarbutton.
The dye disappears within hours, and research shows it has no effects on humans or aquatic life in the low concentrations used. Scientists will be dropping it in three places along the river this week, then the data collected will be calibrated in computer models to help develop a plan to restore the health of the river later this year.