Discolored water being flushed

Stephanie Sansoucy

The discolored water containing high levels of manganese that made its way into Appalachian State University’s water system Sept. 17 has started to clear, said Michael O’Connor, director of Appalachian State University’s Physical Plant.

O’Connor said that the water will flush out faster in buildings like dorms that use a large amount of water per day in comparison to an academic building that may take more time. He also said the manganese levels never reached a high enough concentration to be an issue for drinking water.

The problem that caused the discoloration occurred over a span of four days, O’Connor said.

“In the fall when nighttime temperatures drop, the colder surface water sinks to the bottom and the warmer manganese-rich water at the bottom rises to the top where our intake is,” O’Connor said.

This results in the water discoloration, which was noticeable on campus over the last few days.

“We can deduce that the turnover occurred on the night of Sept. 15,” O’Connor said.
O’Connor said the turnover was a direct result of operator error and the system was not turned on early enough to prevent the turnover.

In the past seven years, this issue has occurred only four times, O’Connor said.
This time around, there were no significant financial costs, O’Connor said.

“The only expense is the need to flush out a volume of water from the system,” O’Connor said. “A thousand dollars at most.”

O’Connor said the manganese levels never reached a concentration high enough to cause a hazard to human health, and the issue will be resolved within a few days.

“The discolored water did not make it to the university system until Tuesday, Sept. 17,” O’Connor said. “We started flushing the system on [Sept. 18] once we were aware of the problem.”

The entire campus was finally notified of the issue via email Thursday, Sept. 19.

O’Connor said this is a typical problem in reservoirs all over the county, but with the proper care and handling, it is preventable.

Art Kessler, director of Food Services said that this has not been a problem.
“We have filters, so it’s not as noticeable,” Kessler said. “We have not gotten any complaints.”

Story: ASHLEY CHAVES, Intern News Reporter