STILLWATER — Oklahoma State University won't face the Texas Longhorns for another two months, but OSU's campus fountains and faucets are already sporting burnt orange.
For the past few weeks, elevated manganese levels have turned OSU's water supply a rusty orange color. OSU officials have put out campus notices saying the water is safe to drink, but the color has left some students unsettled.
Paige Snyder, an OSU graduate student, said she'd noticed the change in color when she filled up a water bottle at OSU's Colvin Recreation Center. It looked disgusting, she said.
“I got the email about it being safe to drink, but no one wants to drink that,” Snyder said.
OSU gets its water from Lake Carl Blackwell, just west of Stillwater. The elevated manganese levels were caused when sediment at the bottom of the lake was churned up, releasing the mineral into the water, said Carrie Hulsey-Greene, an OSU spokeswoman.
The water on campus first changed color Aug. 12, and got worse over the weekend before classes began, Hulsey-Greene said. It began to clear up, but worsened again after Labor Day weekend, she said. “It's a nice kind of Texas orange,” she said.
Since the problem began, OSU officials have handed out bottled water to students living in residence halls and installed additional water filtration systems at campus dining halls and some laundry rooms.
A notice released Tuesday said the water entering the university's water treatment plant was clearer and showed lower levels of manganese. It could take several days for the new, clearer water to replace the discolored water already in the system, according to the notice.
Although the discoloration is unsightly, it shouldn't pose a health risk, said Tim Ward, assistant director of water quality for the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality. Manganese can affect the color and taste of water, he said, but it doesn't make the water unsafe to drink.
“Normally, it's not something that would cause a health problem,” he said.
Contributing: Reporter Jonathan Sutton contributed to this report.