Officials offer answers to Altus’ discolored water

Published: Sep. 19, 2022 at 6:53 PM CDT
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LAWTON, Okla. (KSWO) - After weeks of stinking brown water, people in Altus are finally getting answers to what went wrong with their water supply.

“This system uses sodium permanganate to treat and due to supply change issues, Altus temporarily ran out of that sodium permanganate. Therefore, they weren’t able to treat for it, but since then we have gotten a shipment of that and have begun treatment again,” Erin Hatfield, communications director for the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Qualities said.

Manganese is a natural mineral that falls under a non-mandatory water quality standard. It’s not harmful in low quantities but can make the water look cloudy or smell bad. However, the biggest part of the issue is low water levels and the recent lack of rain.

“There are higher levels of manganese and iron in the Tom Steed Reservoir, which is the source water for Altus and Synder and Fredrick. Some of that, again, can be due to the fact that reoccurring drought can contribute to these higher levels of minerals in the water,” she said.

Mickey Payne, a resident of Altus for 28 years and father of 4-year-old twins, said his family now goes through twice as many bottles of water a day, which drains his wallet.

“So we went from rinsing our mouth out with tap water, to now a bottle of water for after brushing our teeth. So, it does take a toll over time, but definitely now, since water has gone up,” Payne said.

Payne said bathing his twins has also been a hassle.

“Yea they did not want to take a bath in it. It did stink just standing relatively close to the water, you can smell it,” he said.

Chris Riffle, the City of Altus communications coordinator, said the water treatment plant normally checks for manganese once a week but is now checking every 2 to 4 hours.

“It’s the largest spike from what we gathered in 40 years. It was a really large spike and at the time really exceeded our capacity to treat at the time. But since then we have made the changes that are necessary and we are pretty confident that the days of yellow water are behind us,” Riffle said.

Riffle said this will be the new normal for the city of Altus, due to the Tom Steed Reservoir being the main source of their water.