From the Editors: Recently, we asked for your thoughts, knowledge, or opinions about the orange sludge which has been draining from the pipe near the Dining Hall. Being an environmentally conscious college, we figured it was at least worth inquiring about (if only to ease some minds). Many of you were concerned, and hopefully some of these responses can ease your mind.
Thank you for opening the discussion to the campus.
As you guessed, the orange stuff is iron oxide, deposited naturally by harmless iron bacteria. It is common in waterlogged soils and wetlands where iron is abundant in the bedrock and sediments, as it is here in the Adirondacks. In cellars and drain pipes it is often considered a slimy problem, but out in the wild people have described it otherwise. Through the ages it has been used worldwide as a source of pigment, called “ochre,” that can also turn red when heated properly. This is where the name of Ochre Pond (nearby in the Saint Regis Canoe Area) undoubtedly came from, perhaps even because indigenous peoples came there to collect ochre such as this.
The amount of ochre in the outlet by the student center varies day to day, month to month depending on the flow of groundwater from the surrounding soils that then flushes out the pipe and precipitates out in the more oxygen-rich setting. It does coat everything at the mouth of the pipe as you’ll easily see, but it is not a threat to the lake as a whole. If you look carefully, you’ll also see rusty ochre staining rocks and debris in the shallows along much of the lake shore, too.”
“I think that if the school has the resources, they should use this as an opportunity to have students that would be interested test the sludge and find out what it is; if it is something that will break down on its own or if it needs to be cleaned up immediately. How harmful is it? Will it or has it effected the lake, the wildlife within it, and it’s ecosystem?
My second thought would be why is anything being drained into the lake? Sodexo, as they would clearly be the ones responsible, need to fix that to stop anymore whatever from draining. As Sodexo owns the space and everything that goes one, I would say it’s their responsibility and they need to stop doing whatever they are doing to create the sludge and repair/replace the pipes.
As a senior, I can’t say if I knew or noticed. I’d hope this is a newer issue.”
“Iron oxide hydroxide has uses — dyes for one. I wouldn’t worry about it.
PS — Warms my heart – I have BS in Chemical Engineering. To have students on this campus know the formation of oxides (pulling off the loose electron which mates with acid (H+) and forms oxides and water — makes me feel so PROUD!!!)
“Finally someone brought it up! I went to an open forum to discuss this topic, but all I received were blank stares. This “sludge” is against everything preached at this college. We talk about conserving the beauty in the land yet right outside our door we’re creating the same problem as everyone. This is my first year at PSC and it bothers me to see this infecting our waters. In the fall it seemed to only effect the small circle area outside the dinning, but now it looks to be spreading down along the bank. I swim in that lake! I can only imagine how I’d feel if I had to live in it. As a fisher, canoer, kayaker, swimmer, and student I feel it’s wrong to walk past this site everyday without stopping it. This pump is so fierce that it prevents the ice from freezing in this place of water. All winter long you can see the slush forming over the strong orange color beneath. Something needs to be done about it.”