Dye study at Cowell Beach

Frequently Asked Questions

What does the study entail?

Rhodamine WT dye will be released into a storm drain through a manhole or catch basin on May 17, 2013. The storm drain terminates beneath the sand at Cowell Beach. Water will be sampled in the ocean in front of the location where the pipe terminates daily for at least two weeks. In addition, temporary wells will be installed by hand into the beach aquifer along a transect from the buried pipe towards the ocean on 1 or 2 occasions and water will be sampled. Water samples will be transported to the lab and analyzed for the dye using a Turner Fluorometer. The fluorometer can measure very low concentrations of dye. The dye is excited by a specific wavelength of light and emits photons at a differnet wavelength of light.

What will it look like?

We are doing to the dye study because we want to better understand the transport of water and contaminants from the pipe to the ocean. It is possible that you will see the ocean water turn pink in color (see picture from San Pedro Creek experiment here). However, we expect that concentrations will be very low so that the water will not be colored at all.

How long will the dye last?

This depends in part on the circulation at Cowell Beach which will be affected by the tide, wind, and wave conditions. In ambient sunlit waters, the dyes degrade naturally within 2 to 7 days.

Are the dyes safe?

Rhodamine is one of the most frequently used dyes in environmental studies. When released into the beach, it will immediately become diluted. Known potential adverse reactions occur only with direct contact at high concentrations. Because of the rapid dilution of the dye, exposure to the dye at its full strength will be very unlikely. Refer to Material Safety Data Sheet for more information about the dye.

What should I do if humans or animals get in contact with the dye?

Unprotected contact of the dye at undiluted concentration may cause eye irritation and slight skin irritation in sensitive individuals. In the unlikely event of unprotected eye contact with undiluted dye, immediately rinse with flow water for at least 15 minutes while holding eyelids open. For skin contact with undiluted dye, wash affected area with soap and rinse with plenty of water. If you come into contact with undiluted dye, refer to Material Safety Data Sheet for details and get immediate medical attention.