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News Release

For immediate release: November 1, 2012      (12-161)

 Contacts: Julie Graham, Communications Office   360-236-4022
                   Kate Lynch, Communications Office    360-236-4072

Marine water may turn red near Tacoma and Blaine; tests start Sunday

Dye helps identify safe shellfish areas and isn’t harmful to people or the ecosystem

OLYMPIA - Scientists from the Department of Health are joining with federal, tribal, state, and local agencies to test the water around wastewater treatment plants near Tacoma and Blaine.

The dye tests, which take place November 4-15, are part of two studies to look for areas where wastewater may impact shellfish, making them unsafe to eat. Red dye in the treated wastewater will likely be visible during the first day of each testing period. The dye is not harmful to people, marine life, or the environment.

The first area to be studied will be outside of Drayton Harbor at Blaine in Whatcom County. Scientists from the state health department and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will put cages of oysters in various locations in the waters around the treatment plant on Sunday November 4. The red dye will be added to Blaine’s treated wastewater Sunday night and scientists will track where it goes. The City of Blaine, the Lummi Department of Natural Resources, and the Northwest Indian College will help with this part of the study.

The second dye study, near Tacoma, goes from November 10-15 and will not include testing for bacteria and viruses. Dye will be added to Chambers Creek’s wastewater starting Sunday, November 11. This study is part of an EPA-funded grant to evaluate the potential to open areas near the Chambers Creek and Joint Base Lewis-McChord wastewater plants for commercial shellfish harvest. Pierce County Public Works, the Nisqually Department of Natural Resources, and the Department of Ecology are helping with this part of the study.

Tracking where wastewater travels and measuring levels of bacteria and viruses in caged oysters will help scientists determine where shellfish may be impacted by pollution.

The Department of Health is responsible for the safety of commercial shellfish harvested in the state. The agency’s Office of Shellfish and Water Protection uses national standards to classify all commercial shellfish harvesting areas.

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