If Patchogue’s bay and river waters appear to be red or pink, here’s why


They’re doing it for the shellfish.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation and U.S. Food and Drug Administration have just announced a joint effort to track the ebb and flow of Patchogue wastewater.

To that end, the agencies will conduct a hydrographic dye study of wastewater from the Village of Patchogue Wastewater Treatment Plant on Hammond St. from March 24 to March 30.

“The study will improve DEC and FDA’s understanding of the destination of the treated effluent discharging into the Patchogue River and Patchogue Bay and support efforts to protect the health of consumers of shellfish harvested from New York waters,” the announcement reads.

According to the agencies, the dye, called Rhodamine WT, is a water-tracing dye approved for use by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) “and will not cause environmental harm.”

What residents might notice is that parts of Patchogue River and the bay might appear to be discolored, turning a red or pink for a brief time. The discoloration may be visible from shore.

What’s next?

The dye will be introduced in low concentrations at the plant beginning March 25, a process that will take just over 12 hours.

It’s the only dye injection scheduled for the study.

The data collected over the roughly two weeks “will be used to assess the required shellfish closure surrounding the treatment plant outfall,” the announcement reads. “In addition, this study will enhance emergency readiness and the ability to respond to events related to any potential spills or untreated discharges at the wastewater treatment plant.”

DEC maintains closure areas around sewage treatment plant outfalls to prohibit the harvest of shellfish from areas deemed unsafe for the harvest and consumption of shellfish, DEC officials clarified after publication.

“The National Shellfish Sanitation Program Model Ordinance requires states to implement closed areas (prohibited zones) around [sewer treatment plant] outfalls to ensure the safety of shellfish harvested for human consumption,” a DEC spokesperson said. “There is a year-round closure currently in place for the Patchogue River and a portion of Patchogue Bay that does not meet approved water quality criteria and may be impacted by untreated effluent from the [sewer treatment plant] outfall in the event of a sewage treatment plant malfunction.

This is the first hydrographic dye study of the Patchogue Village Wastewater Treatment Plant, the officials said.

Adrienne Esposito, executive director for the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, told Newsday the efforts have to do with the plant’s upgraded sewer capacity, which has increased in recent years.

Top: Patchogue River looking south. (GLI File Photo/Michael White)

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