Red Slick in Coral Bay Harbor Was Harmless Water Testing Dye

Coral Bay residents flooded the Fire Department, newspapers and Coast Guard with phone calls asking about the source of a large blotch of bright red dye that was seen floating in the harbor on Friday morning, September 7.

Wild guesses about the coloration in the bay — from red tide to chemical spills — flew around the community until the local U.S. Environmental Protection Agency explained the source of the red slick.

“The name of the dye is Rhodamine WT and it is a tracer type of dye that is used extensively in terms of water quality scientific studies,” said Jim Casey, the V.I. coordinator for the U.S. EPA.

“The testing is being done as part of an initiative for the Department of Planning and Natural Resources by the EPA to assess the physical characteristics of the bay,” Casey explained when contacted by St. John Tradewinds.

Dye Considered Safe
The dye creates a temporary color and is considered safe for scientific studies, Casey added.

“This just creates a temporary discoloration of the water and is a material that is safe for use in water quality assessment,” he said. “It’s not something that is considered as a degradation of the water quality. It’s a temporary discoloration process and it’s something that is commonly used in conducting water testing.”

EPA officials apologized for causing residents any concern and warned that future testing will be conducted in the waters around St. John and St. Thomas, explained Casey.

“EPA regrets that some members of the public may have been concerned by our contractor’s activity,” according to a prepared statement by the EPA. “Rhodamine WT dye is harmless in this type of routine analysis and poses no threat to animal life or the environment.”