Emergency management officials in the Town of Lancaster said "it looks worse than it is."
But it looked pretty bad.
Scajaquada Creek, a stream constantly plagued by sewage overflows during heavy rains, was dyed red Tuesday when rainwater apparently helped mulch dyes from a Walden Avenue company run off into the creek.
"We're monitoring the flow of it now," said Ronald Rozler, who heads emergency management for the town.
Rozler said the flow of the creek was expected to take the red dye downstream into Depew and Cheektowaga before eventually emptying into the Black Rock Canal near Unity Island.
"It's going to work its way out," Rozler said.
— Harold McNeil (@HaroldMcNeilBN) April 25, 2017
Town officials reviewed material data sheets on the dye and determined it is neither harmful nor toxic.
"It's a dye that's used for landscaping mulch," Rozler said.
Runoff from a leaking trailer containing red-dyed mulch at Superior Pallet Co., 3981 Walden Ave. in Lancaster, was identified as the source of the discoloration.
"It's part of the process where they mix the mulch with the dye," Rozler said.
He said it's possible that rains earlier today – more than one-third of an inch was reported at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport – led the dye to leach into the creek.
Rozler said it was not immediately clear how much dye got into the creek.
The garish hue caught the attention of shoppers at the Northside Plaza on Transit Road. The creek runs just north of the plaza parking lot.
The creek is behind Tim Preski's home on George Urban Boulevard.
"It looks pretty yucky," Preski said of the creek.
By Wednesday morning, the reddish creek waters had made their way through Cheektowaga and a more than three-mile underground tunnel into Forest Lawn.
10+ miles of red dye contamination, reminder of how easily stormwater runoff regularly pollutes region's waterways 📷 @ Forest Lawn Cemetery pic.twitter.com/2QQZkHgJYc
— BNRIVERKEEPER (@BNRiverkeeper) April 26, 2017
The state Department of Environmental Conservation's Law Enforcement and Spill Response staff immediately responded, said DEC spokeswoman Megan Gollwitzer.
"The mulch dye, “Mulch Magic Ruby Red,” contains iron oxide and ammonium hydroxide. DEC Fisheries staff inspected the creek this afternoon and found no observable adverse downstream impacts to fish populations," Gollwitzer said Tuesday.
She added that the spill had been contained and that the water coloration was improving Tuesday afternoon.
Gollwitzer said the DEC is continuing to monitor and investigate the incident and will pursue appropriate enforcement actions if warranted.