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Washington Department of Health using red dye to study water quality around Oak Harbor


The DOH is observing the movement of water from a reconstructed clean water facility to monitor the impact on nearby shellfish harvesting operations.

OAK HARBOR, Wash. — If you saw red water around Whidbey Island Monday, there’s no need to worry. 

Scientists with the state Department of Health added red dye to the water around Oak Harbor to evaluate the wastewater movement near a reconstructed clean water facility.

The state department of health tossed the red dye into the water at the facility to map out where it would go, for a very important reason. Ian Jefferds is the general manager of Penn Cove Shellfish located a couple of miles away.

“For us, it’s business as usual,” said Jefferds. “This is part of a study to validate the efficacy of the new treatment plant that they put in there in Oak Harbor.”

Penn Cove Shellfish harvests mussels, clams and oysters in the waters near Coupeville and has been operating since 1975. The dye shows the water’s movement from the Oak Harbor Clean Water Facility to see if there could be an environmental impact.

“Much of shellfish particularly oysters are sold live in the shell,” said Jefferds. “So you need to know that the water they’re coming from is clean and healthy and that there aren’t going to be any issues from harvesting shellfish from those waters.”

The dye is non-toxic, not harmful to people, pets or the environment and it may be visible in and around Oak Harbor for the next day or so. The state said there’s no estimate for the study’s results but they may continue evaluating the area through Wednesday.

“We all have to be able to sleep at night, and we know the water quality’s good, we product out of this bay every day so this is just one more way to validate the water quality that we operate in,” said Jefferds.



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