Chicago dyes river green every St Patrick’s Day and it’s all down to an accident

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    St Patrick’s Day sees people around the world celebrate Irish culture – and, of course, enjoy some Guinness.

    The day generally has some of its biggest parties over the Irish Sea in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland – as St Patrick is the country’s patron saint.

    But, the United States also celebrates St Patricks Day in a pretty big way – particularly on the Eastern Coast.

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    Cities such as New York, Boston and Chicago go big on March 17 with parades and plenty of drinking and wearing green outfits.

    While not particularly traditional there are reasons why St Patrick’s Day is so big in the US – largely due to the huge amounts of emigration from Ireland.

    Chicago also has a fairly unique way to bring the day to life… one that can be spotted even from the air.

    Plumbers in the state of Chicago dye the river green as part of a longstanding tradition.

    The city uses vegetables to create the dramatic change in water colour and the practice has been going on for more than 60 years.

    But, it turns out that the tradition was started completely by accident!

    Apparently, a previous Chicago mayor wanted to clean up the river area so had plumbers put orange dye into people’s water systems.

    But, when it joined up with sewage the water turned bright green.

    This gave the Chicago Journeymen Plumbers Local union a clever idea.

    Now, descendants of just two families from the same plumbers union are the ones responsible for dyeing the river each year.

    Usually, the river is turned to a lurid green the Saturday before St Patrick’s Day.

    The special dye – made from vegetables to be environmentally friendly since 1966 – is known as “Leprechaun Dust”.

    Its recipe is closely guarded and considered a secret.

    The dye is generally sprayed into the Chicago River from barges.

    However, only a certain section of the river is allowed to be dyed each year due to worries over how the mix may affect local ecosystems.


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