No dyeing wish: Group says it's OK to color Chicago River
A Chicago environmentalist group denies that it is calling for the end of the 55-year tradition of dyeing the Chicago River green for St. Patrick's Day.
Margaret Frisbie, executive director of Friends of the Chicago River, said the organization never pushed for the end of the event that is undertaken by the Chicago Journeyman Plumbers Local 130.
"A fellow river advocate from Portland wrote a letter to the editor published in the Chicago Sun-Times saying he thought it was humiliating for the river (once) he saw it with his own eyes," Frisbie said. "That triggered some local coverage."
Frisbie said while her group doesn’t support the river dyeing, all members have respect for what it means.
"When the tradition started and for much of its history the river was in terrible shape, and it was unimaginable that it would one day be alive with people and fish — over 70 species and counting — like it is now," she said.
While Frisbie said it is for the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to decide whether the green dye could be harmful, she did acknowledge worse things happen to the river daily.
But she did acknowledge that the group asked the city to refrain from dyeing the river blue following the Chicago Cubs' World Series win because the group feared it would set a regrettable precedent.
"We do believe that the dye diminishes the river and causes people to think that the river is not alive," she said.
According to Frisbie, her organization's focus during its 37-year history has been to improve water quality by changing attitudes and the rules that govern the river.
"We now have much cleaner water, much better public access, improving habitat, and the river really is the focus of many communities providing economic benefit and improved quality of life," Frisbie said. "We are proud to have helped give that gift to the people and wildlife and will continue that work."
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