JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - It's a disaster response drill that involves industry and the environment. A team of scientists in Jackson County is using bright green dye to simulate a chemical spill in a popular lake.
The exercise is happening at the Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, which happens to border the heavily industrialized area of Bayou Casotte in Pascagoula.
Team leader Kevin Dillon opens the valve, which starts the release of 200 gallons of fluorescent liquid into Bangs Lake.
"We're going to inject at high tide and just watch the tide carry it out so we can get maximum transport," Dillon explained.
This popular recreation and fishing area is adjacent to heavily industrialized Bayou Casotte. The dye simulates an industrial spill, like the occasional phosphate discharges that have happened here.
"We really don't have a good idea of the water currents in this area, so this is an easy way for us to put out a real visible tracer that we can track over time and find out where this water's going to sort of understand currents and flow," said Dillon, who's with USM's Gulf Coast Research Lab.
Scientists will track the dye and take multiple samples of the water in different areas. The more data they collect, the more prepared they'll be to predict the impact of future spills.
Brian Dzwonkowski is with the University of South Alabama Dauphin Island Sea Lab.
"One day can look very different from the next day, and so it's very important to get a wide range of sampling to really understand how a plume or an oil spill is going to disperse under different conditions," Dzwonkowski explained.
With more than half the liquid deployed, the project leader is pleased.
"The water's turning green. It's good," Dillon exclaimed. "It's always hard to account for the way the wind is going to be blowing and the boat's going to be sitting, but I'm pleased with it so far."
"This is important not only to know about how our natural system works, but in the event that we have a disaster or some sort of industrial spill, this information can help us figure out where that material might go and how long it might stick around," said Kim Cressman, with the Grand Bay NERR.
"It just helps us mitigate it, helps us understand it. May help us control things. If we need to put booms out for any kind of spill and we know where the water tends to go, then we have a better idea how to handle that response," said Dillon.
The exercise is one of several disaster drills taking place along the gulf region.
NOAA's Disaster Recovery Center is a partner in the various projects, including the dye study at the Grand Bay NERR.