The Chicago River is a ripe shade of green right about now. The city is famous for its tradition of dyeing the river green for St. Patty’s Day, a practice that began in 1962 when city pollution-control workers used dyes to track illegal sewage discharges and realized it could make for a fun holiday event. Although back in ’62 they used some 100 pounds of green vegetable dye to do it — which kept the river green for a week! — the city now limits it to 40 pounds of the stuff, keeping it green for just a few hours.
Hoping to start a tradition of their own, restaurateurs in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., this year had planned to dye the New River green for a St. Patrick’s Day festival, but Broward County environmental regulators pooh-poohed the idea, saying it violated local water-quality rules. Officials worried about the dye’s effects on the endangered West Indian manatee and other environmental treasures in the area.
When party promoters pushed the idea, arguing that the dye is non-toxic, Mayor Kristin Jacobs retorted with a suggestion that the festival organizers dye themselves green by drinking the chemicals if they were indeed so safe. The party planners must not have been interested, as the new plan is limited to dyeing fountains at the Las Olas Riverfront and offering special “Green River Water” drinks. Yum.