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Pics of The Year: 4 Times Chemistry Turned Water a Startling Color

A look back at some of the most memorable images of 2016.

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Typically when a picture of water that’s turned a color it’s not supposed to be comes across my desk, it’s because something has gone majorly wrong. But at least once this year we got to marvel at the beauty chemistry can accomplish in a city’s biggest waterway.

Here are some of the most memorable images of 2016.

What Turned This Russian River Red?

When this story broke about a river in Russia turning a bloody shade of red, officials hadn’t yet confirmed what caused the contamination. But the initial suspicions about Norilsk Nickle, the world’s largest nickel producer, being behind the accident were eventually confirmed.


Photo: The Siberian TimesPhoto: The Siberian Times

After the company fessed up that a dike at a metallurgical plant had overflowed, they said that the “short-term river color staining with iron salts” was not a hazard for people or river fauna in the area.  

Chicago Dyes Its River Blue

After the Cubs’ historic World Series win, Chicago city officials announced that the Chicago River would be dyed blue to celebrate.

Some environmentalists raised concerns that the dye job could hurt aquatic wildlife — many of whom are from the same group opposed to the city’s annual tradition of dying the same river green for St. Patrick’s Day.

AP PhotoAP Photo

That tradition started on accident when plumbers used fluorescein dye to help look for pollution discharges (fluorescein is an orange powder until it’s mixed with water where it turns green). Eventually, the EPA banned the use of fluorescein for this purpose, and the family in charge of dying the river switched to a vegetable-based dye (although, they won’t reveal the exact details about the formula they use).

The same family was in charge of the blue dye job. Despite the environmental concerns, many city officials vouch for its safety and rules have been put in place that require the use of a natural food-based dye to achieve the brilliant hues.

Photo via TwitterPhoto via Twitter

An Olympic-Sized Oops

If you tuned in to watch diving events at the 2016 summer Olympics games in Rio in early August, you may have noticed that one of the pools didn’t look quite right.

AP PhotoAP Photo

While it was deemed safe for competition, it took days before officials could explain why one of the pools had turned dark green. The verdict? Someone mistakenly dumped 160 liters of hydrogen peroxide into the pool. The chemical reportedly “neutralized” chlorine in the pool, which allowed organic compounds, like algae, to quickly grow.

A spokesperson for the Olympics called the incident an “embarrassment.”

AP PhotoAP Photo

What Chemical Turned This Creek White?

When a gasket on a tank holding an automotive cleaning solvent failed, about 2,300 gallons of the chemical were unleashed into a creek just outside of Atlanta, Georgia. The result was a chalky white mess that officials had to rush to clean up.

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Apollo Technologies, a turn-key specialty chemical company with three manufacturing sites in the U.S., took responsibility for the spill.

Photo: MDJ OnlinePhoto: MDJ Online
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