June 18, 2019 | 68° F

Rutgers professor says yellow water contains high iron levels

Photo by The Daily Targum |

The water fountains in Alexander Library were previously spouting yellow water due to high iron levels, which can cause taste issues and discoloring of clothes that were washed. 

The yellow water found in Alexander Library by The Daily Targum last week was due to the water’s iron levels, said Daniel Van Abs, an associate professor of practice for water, society and environment at the Department of Human Ecology. 

Iron itself is not a big issue, Van Abs said. It can cause taste issues, discolor the water and clothing, but is not so much a health issue. 

“But what it does indicate, is that something is disrupting the lines,” he said. 

There are two things that cause increased iron during water repairs, Van Abs said. First, iron, along with other sediment, comes into the water from the physical disruption to the water line. Second, disruption to the flow of water also causes more iron and sediment to enter the water. 

In this case, the Targum reported on Monday that the yellow water was due to an emergency water excavation and repairs by New Brunswick Water Utility on George Street in the vicinity of Huntington Street. The construction also caused domestic and fire sprinkler water issues in Campbell Hall. 

The deep freeze that occurred last week caused water lines to break all over New Jersey, Van Abs said. The number of water issues due to water line breaks was not unusual. 

If the water had been polluted with other bacteria or was unsafe for the public, officials would have done an oil water order to remove the bacteria. If there were potential for any significant health risks, officials should have said something, he said.

Van Abs would personally be in favor of letting yellow water flush for a little while until it runs a bit cleaner. 

Earlier this week, Huntington Street was still closed at night due to a road issue. “Our understanding is that a road issue is/was being repaired, not the water lines,” said University spokesperson Neal Buccino. 

Brendan Brightman

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