Strawberry Creek turns orange due to food dye spillage

Water in Berkeley's Strawberry Creek was running bright orange on Sunday after food dye used in a Holi celebration went into the water. Photo: Jeff Troutman

Strawberry Creek was running bright orange on Sunday after food dye used in a Holi celebration went into the water. Photo: Jeff Troutman

Berkeley’s Strawberry Creek was running bright orange today, but residents can rest assured there was nothing toxic in the water.

The creek was discolored on Sunday morning when a food-grade dye was inadvertently washed into a storm drain at the northeast corner of the UC Berkeley campus, according to Claire Holmes, a spokeswoman for the university. The dye had been used by a student group as part of a Holi festival event on Saturday, she said.

According to an alert posted online Sunday afternoon by the city of Berkeley, and also by UC Berkeley, the source of the release has been stopped, and the creek discoloration is diminishing.

“Some orange tint remains visible in deeper sections of the creek,” the release noted.

The State Department of Fish and Wildlife has been notified, as well as other city and state offices, and it was agreed to allow the creek discoloration to attenuate naturally.

“There have been no reports of adverse impacts to aquatic life. City and university environmental specialists are continuing to monitor the situation,” the alert concluded.

Holi, a spring festival also known as the festival of colors, is an ancient Hindu religious festival which involves, among other things, people dousing each other with dry powder and colored water. It is celebrated every year by many UC Berkeley students.

Strawberry Creek is a major landscape feature of UC Berkeley, and one of the primary reasons the site was chosen in 1860 as the location for the campus. The main fork of the creek flows west and comes out into the bay just beyond the East Shore freeway.

Members of the public can call 510-812-1541 for additional information about the spillage.

Gang violence, drug use, graffiti spark renewed push to clean up West Berkeley park (04.18.14)
UC Berkeley students celebrate the Holi Festival of Colors (04.15.13)
Neighbors fight to save Strawberry Creek Park slide (12.02.11)
Strawberry Creek Plaza: City votes tomorrow (03.22.10)

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  • gregm123456

    From 2011 Daily Cal: ”Students also took care to prevent runoff from flowing into Strawberry Creek, plugging drains and disposing of colored water after the event, which was planned months in advance.”
    Wonder what went awry this year?

  • Dorrit Geshuri

    since when is food-grade dye non-toxic?