Richardson creek runs red after detergent discharge from car wash

A creek in Richardson turned bright red over the weekend, and now we know why.

The City of Richardson shared photos of the red water in Floyd Branch Creek.

The city says the creek, located at Arapaho Road near West Shore Dr., changed colors due to a spill of soap detergent at a nearby car wash.

The car wash discharged its main wastewater line after a blockage. The city said detergent from the car wash is what turned the creek red.

Creek on Sunday, Jan. 28 (Source: City of Richardson)

Crews worked overnight using pumps and other specialized equipment to clean up the spill.

The city of Richardson says the detergent is non-hazardous and that crews have not seen any immediate impacts, though they are aware it could affect aquatic life in the creek.

During a quick walk for Sunday morning donuts, 16-year-old Henry Fair noticed the creek next to his Richardson home was an alarming shade of red. 

"I was going down there and barely look over and see bright red. I look over, and I’m like who? It was all the way down as far as you could see," he recalled. "It was even staining the concrete walls of the creek and the grass and foliage and all that. It was flowing out super quick when I was there, and it was spreading. It’s in a place where people’s houses are elevated, and it’s down there."

Fair took videos and took action. He called the city’s 24-7 response line, the health department and then googled a number for the EPA. Within a few hours, crews were on scene. 

Overnight, crews blocked the flow of creek water to prevent the spread of the soap. More than 21,000 gallons of water were removed.

By Monday, video from SKY 4 showed Floyd Branch Creek still had a red tint to it. Water quality tests showed normal results. 

"While there could still be some residual visual evidence of the spill, impacts were minimized and the natural ecosystem and water quality is confirmed to meet safety standards," the city said in a post on Monday.

The North Texas Wildlife Center says it has crews in the area to help any wildlife affected by the spill.

Creek on Sunday, Jan. 28 (Source: City of Richardson)

Just a few blocks away, Clean N Shine Express Carwash at the corner of Arapaho Road and Hampshire Lane was open Monday.

The city of Richardson says the car wash will receive an illicit discharge citation, which is punishable up to $2,000. The owner will also be responsible for any expenses incurred during the mitigation and cleanup. 

The city says any further punishment would come from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

The health department will continue to monitor the area for any environmental impacts. 

"Last night, we were like meeting and thought this could be really bad," said Rebecca Hamlin, president of North Texas Wildlife. "Once we had our team go out there and send us pictures and videos, there was a sense of relief because it’s not as bad as we thought." 

Creek on Monday, Jan. 29 (Source: City of Richardson)

Volunteers from North Texas Wildlife were also on the scene Monday.

While mammals and birds didn’t appear to be affected, fish in the creek could be, so the non-profit is on standby. 

North Texas Wildlife says, at this point, it’s not classifying it as a wildlife emergency. 

Now, the city of Richardson says we really will not know about the health of fish for a few days.