Would job costing or process costing be used by the manufacturer of the dye used to turn the Chicago River green for St. Patrick’s Day?

Since 1962, members of the Plumbers Local have been dyeing the Chicago River green in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. Similar river dyeing occurs in Tampa, Austin, and elsewhere.

In 1961, the mayor of Chicago wanted to find out where raw sewage was being dumped into the Chicago River. He directed that a special green dye (fluorescein) would be added to the river to help highlight where the sewage was being dumped.

Upon seeing the Chicago River streaked green for this sewage-detection project, people got the idea that the river could be dyed green for St. Patrick’s Day. In 1962, members of the Plumbers Local in Chicago dumped 100 pounds of this leak detection dye into the river for St. Patrick’s Day. It turned the river green for a week. In later years, less dye was used so that the river would be green for less than one day.

Environmentalists then warned that the use of fluorescein might be damaging the river’s eco-system. A switch was then made to a powered, vegetable dye in 1966.

Although parade organizers will not disclose the exact ingredients of the dye used, it is probably similar to the Bright Dyes Water Tracer Dye produced by Kingscote Chemicals of Ohio. This Water Tracer Dye is an orange powder that turns bright green when it is put into the river. It is EPA-approved for uses related to public waterways. (The City of Tampa uses use this Bright Eyes dye for its river dyeing.)

When Kingscote produces this dye, it likely performs steps similar to the following:

  • Mix together several chemicals in powder form;
  • Add a liquid chemical to the mix;
  • Heat and stir the mixture;
  • Cool the mixture;
  • Dry and grind the cooled mixture into a power form.

The dye powder is made in large batches and is sold in 1 lb., 10 lbs, and 25 lb. containers. There are a variety of uses for the dry powder. In addition to dyeing rivers green, the dye power is used for flow studies, leak detection, power plant piping, and drain connections.

Questions

  1. Would Kingscote Chemicals be likely to use job costing or process costing when it accounts for the manufacture of its powder Bright Dyes products? Explain.
  2. List several conversion costs that might be incurred in the production of the Bright Dyes powder.
  3. Describe the accounting for conversion costs at a manufacturer such as Kingscote Chemicals.
  4. If Kingscote Chemicals routinely has little to no inventory at the end of each period, what effect would that lack of inventory have on its costing system?

Instructor Resources

These resources are provided to give the instructor flexibility for use of Accounting in the Headlines articles in the classroom. The blog posting itself can be assigned via a link to this site OR by distributing the student handout below. Alternatively, the PowerPoint file below contains a bullet point overview of the article and the discussion questions.

  • Student handout (pdf) (word) (contains entire blog posting + discussion questions)
  • PowerPoint file (brief article overview + discussion questions)

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.

About Dr. Wendy Tietz, CPA, CMA, CGMA

Dr. Wendy Tietz is a professor of accounting at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, USA. She is also a textbook author with Pearson Prentice-Hall.

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