Archive for Friday, August 10, 2007

Algae to blame for water’s foul smell, taste

City adding carbon to combat bad flavor

August 10, 2007


High algae levels change taste of water

A natural change makes water in parts of town harder to swallow. Enlarge video

People living on the west side of Lawrence may have noticed a rather unpleasant change in their tap water this week.

Rayanne Dowell sure did.

"It smells and tastes like dirt," she said.

She and her family regularly drink the city's tap water, which she says she loves.

"We just can't drink this; it's really foul," Dowell said. "So I've been buying bottled water, but it's getting expensive."

Sunshine and nutrients at Clinton Lake have increased algae, which contributes to the "musky" odor and taste lingering in the city's potable water. The lake is a source of water primarily for areas west of Iowa Street and is treated at Clinton Water Treatment Plant.

"There are people who are very sensitive and pick this up and others who don't at all," said Philip Ciesielski, the city's assistant director of utilities. "It's very personal down to the sensitivity of a person's palate."

Ciesielski said the taste and odor issues hit the Clinton Water Treatment Plant harder than usual this year in part because of the seasonal spike in algae populations and the high demand for water.

In response, the city increased the amount of carbon it puts in the water it treats beginning last weekend when officials noticed a change in water quality. The fix hasn't been completely successful.

"As unpleasant as it can be, it's strictly an aesthetic issue," Ciesielski said. "In all other ways it's safe to drink."

Today, a different type of carbon is expected to be delivered to the treatment plant that Ciesielski said has been more effective in eliminating the foul odor and taste.

Paul Liechti, assistant director of the Kansas Biological Survey, said conditions are prime for algae growth. The one-celled organisms produce oxygen during the daylight and die off at night, he said. When they die, they produce higher levels of geosmine, which is what causes the bad taste and odor in potable water.

"Some of the worst conditions are in the fall, when you have the big (algae) die-off," Liechti said.

The increased summer demand for water translates to higher volumes of water moving faster than usual through the treatment plant, Ciesielski said.

On Tuesday, the city treated 25 million gallons of water, he said. The amount fell to 14 million gallons Wednesday with the rainfall of .77 inches.

"We anticipate that ramping up quickly as it stays hot and dry," he said.

Ciesielski said when demand is high the city sometimes uses water from the Kaw Water Treatment Plant, which uses the Kansas River as its source. A flowing stream doesn't have the same algae population that a lake does, he said.


Nikki May 10 years, 10 months ago

I noticed this yesterday. I live on the east side so I get Kaw river water, but from work, I headed out to a fast food place for lunch. Got a root beer, took a drink and it tasted like dirt. Got back to work, said something about not drinking my drink because it tasted like it was made from water from the clinton plant and some of my co-workers just HAD to taste my drink. I had told them some people don't taste it. Well, neither of them did, and I could. I gave my rootbeer away!

Katie Van Blaricum 10 years, 10 months ago

yeah, I brought some water with me last night when I went to work out, and it tasted a little funny. I drank it anyways, but this must have been the cause.

irnmadn88 10 years, 10 months ago

On the subject of Kaw River water...walked down by there this morning...water was rife with chunks of brown foam along the south bank as far as the eye could see. And we drink and bathe in this?

toefungus 10 years, 10 months ago

So, our water bills skyrocket and we get sludge to drink.

acg 10 years, 10 months ago

I was going to say this is ridiculous considering what one pays for water in Lawrence, but JackRipper reminded me that I just saw this story on the news the other night about how clean, drinkable water is such a luxury in the rest of the world, yet we take it for granted. I bet those people in Darfur, who's water supply is non existent and some of who have actually thirsted to death, would love to have water that has a slightly funky taste.

Rob Martin 10 years, 10 months ago

Thank you JR and acg.

As Americans, we typically think we should be catered to. Half the world would like to be able to just drink the water we have straight from the lake and river without any treatment.


$1000.00, you can buy a well for a whole village in India:

girly 10 years, 10 months ago

It was so funny to read this today, because I went to 23rd St. Brewery with my son the other day and he complained that his water tasted like dirt. I had squeezed lemon in mine, so didn't notice. He ordered a soft drink instead, and he could still taste it. It must have been the ice. He couldn't even drink it. He was the only one at our table who it really bothered, but as the article says, some people are more sensitive to it than others. I'll have to share this with him.

Rob Martin 10 years, 10 months ago

On a lighter note, it is kind of funny, girly. An acquaintance of mine who is partial owner at 23rd said they had to delay brewing because of the issue. Sometimes fresh beer has to wait. Hopefully not too long.

kneejerkreaction 10 years, 10 months ago

I thought this was funny until I read that brewing at 23rd st has been delayed. This algae thing is an outrage!!!!! The city must act immediately and decisively!!! We may not have long.

jayhawk1234 10 years, 10 months ago

irnmadn88, no you do not drink and bathe in that stuff thats what that treatment plant does is clean it up. and how thats not where the water is coming from that has a problem......its clinton lake.

JackRipper, I agree with you 1000%

stuckinthemiddle 10 years, 10 months ago

girly FYI... soft drinks in restaurants use tap water... it is carbonated and mixed with syrup... So, the water is in the liquid, as well as the ice.

stuckinthemiddle 10 years, 10 months ago

And... I'm surprised that the brewery doesn't have a filtering system that would take care of this and generally control the quality of water that they brew with... I have a cheap filter that screws onto my faucet and it gets rid of the algae taste/smell.

kneejerkreaction 10 years, 10 months ago

I see a new beer coming out of 23rd St Brewery.......I think it will be a perfect marriage with a leafy green salad.

gontek 10 years, 10 months ago

Also FYI: much of the water from the Kaw comes from groundwater wells, not right from the river. By drawing the groudwater, the water is naturally filtered by the earth already.

bat1 10 years, 10 months ago

Putting something acidic (lemon, lime, etc) will help. Geosmin is decomposed under acidic condition...

bd 10 years, 10 months ago

Topeka's revenge, they must have flushed upstream!

grimpeur 10 years, 10 months ago

toefungus (Anonymous) says: "So, our water bills skyrocket and we get sludge to drink."

Oh, but it's very nice sludge!


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