Archive for Monday, June 11, 2012

City officials working to pinpoint cause of odd odor, taste in drinking water; safety not a concern, they say

June 11, 2012


Officials at the city’s two water treatment plants are running tests today to determine what is causing odd taste and odor issues with the city’s drinking water, but are confident the water remains safe to consume.

“It is an aesthetics issue,” said Jeanette Klamm, a spokeswoman with the city’s Utilities Department. “There aren’t any health issues related to the taste and odor.”

Klamm said the city had received at least 20 calls about the taste and odor issues by early Monday morning. She said plant operators began noticing the issue during the weekend.

City leaders already have a suspicion about what is causing the “earthy and musty” tastes and odors — algae. Now, they just have to figure out what type of algae.

Klamm said plant operators believe they’re dealing with geosmin, which is a by-product of dead algae that accumulate at Clinton Lake and sometimes in the Kansas River. The city’s water plants have experienced high levels of geosmin on an almost annual basis during the last several years. But usually, geosmin outbreaks occur in August when the heat of the summer has killed large amounts of algae at once.

Klamm said the city may receive test results as soon as this afternoon.

As for when the water may begin tasting better, that may be another day or so. Klamm said plant operators currently are reporting the taste and odor issues are on the decline at the two treatment plants.

“But that won’t necessarily help the public today because our systems are full of older water,” Klamm said. “We have to use the existing water before the public will start to notice an improvement.”

City officials don’t believe they are dealing with an algae outbreak of the same nature that caused the Kaw Water Treatment Plant to temporarily close last summer. In August, the Kansas River had high levels of blue-green algae that came from upstream reservoirs, including Milford and Tuttle Creek.

The issues associated with blue-green algae are less understood by water plant professionals than the geosmin outbreaks. Some studies have concluded exposure to water with blue-green algae can cause health problems for humans and especially pets.

Last year, the city’s treatment plant was found to have successfully filtered out the blue-green algae from the drinking water, but as a precaution officials shut the plant down during the height of the outbreak.

Although city officials don’t think blue-green algae is to blame for this week’s taste and odor issues, they are preparing for a similar outbreak in the future. At Tuesday’s city commission meeting, commissioners will consider approving $40,150 for Lawrence to participate in a study of Kansas River water.

The study will be led by the Kansas Water Office and will include the cities of Topeka and Olathe and Water District No. 1 of Johnson County.

Already the Kansas Department of Health and Environment has issued eight advisories related to blue-green algae levels and one warning for Kansas lakes. So far, neither Clinton Lake nor any of the lakes directly upstream from Lawrence’s Kaw Water Treatment Plant has been included in the warnings or advisories.


Stephanie Harris 5 years ago

The water is DISGUSTING. We went and bought bagged ice and bottled water this weekend. I almost can't stand to wash my hands or bathe in it. What can be done in the meantime????

Hooligan_016 5 years ago

Dunno, I showered this morning and didn't notice anything. Sounds like they are getting it under control though. Some cheap bottle/jug water should be able to get you by for a couple of days ...

itsalwayssunnyinlarry 5 years ago

We use our brita filter and it seems to be working well to get rid of the taste and smell.

Stephanie Harris 5 years ago

We have a Brita also and it hasn't helped. I don't think it's all of the water in Lawrence.....just the water that comes from the Clinton Lake Reservoir.

Laura Wilson 5 years ago

Yeah, my brita bottles aren't working either and my water is from the lake. I'll take a drink of tap water at work tomorrow (downtown) and see if I can taste it.

1julie1 5 years ago

I agree. The smell is vile (described in our household as a garbage bag of rotted old corn cobs). I couldn't bear to brush my teeth in it and had to use bottled water.

And it's not like this is something new. Every time we have a period of really hot weather we go through this. Is it really that hard to treat water so that it doesn't stink so much you can't use it?

Joe Berns 5 years ago

Never noticed it, but then again, we have a hague water softener/filtration device, and never notice odd tasting/smelling water in Lawrence.

Brandi Simpson-Glover 5 years ago

I had someone come out not too long ago bc of the terrible odor and they flushed my cul-de-sacs system and said it would be better but I smelled it worse than ever last night. I hope they get it fixed!

MarcoPogo 5 years ago

You can really taste the cryptosporidium!!!

irvan moore 5 years ago

when the government tells you they have confidence it won't hurt you i start to worry

DillonBarnes 5 years ago

You are welcome to go take a glass full strait from the Kaw.

anotherview 5 years ago

I'm not aware of any new government healthcare being proposed. We do of course have Lawrence Memorial Hospital. It was organized as a Municipal Hospital during the 1930's.

Richard Heckler 5 years ago

The Kansas River is listed as the 21st most polluted in the country. This smell has been around for some time. To say there is nothing wrong before knowing absolutely is reckless.

City policy should always be one of caution. Algae eh?

Clickker 5 years ago

Its just like the old days.

Just go get some Jug water if you cant handle it

Matthew Herbert 5 years ago

just make sure you consume it in less than 16 oz. quantities or the New York Big Brother will be at your door with a $100 fine.

LogicMan 5 years ago

Most of the water comes out of Clinton Lake, not the river. The lake, like all others, is silting up, and we're in a lengthy dry spell. So less water equals warmer water, and this year has been warmer sooner. Pray for lots of rain.

gccs14r 5 years ago

In my experience, the water quality is much worse west of Iowa, which gets most of its water from Clinton Lake. The pink slime mold was worse over there, too. I miss Wichita water, which didn't have these problems, but that was over 20 years ago.

Hooligan_016 5 years ago

Yeah, Wichita isn't any better. They have the same problems on an annual basis with Cheney reservoir .

gccs14r 5 years ago

I did say that was 20 years ago. I moved here from there in '92. It may be that I drank more adult beverages than water then, too.

Patricia Davis 5 years ago

We use the Waterworks home distiller. The water tastes like nothing! Wonderful, clean, clear. Tasting water when we eat out in Lawrence is hideous and oily feeling.

somedude20 5 years ago

The tap water has been making my hands stink after washing dishes or pouring a glass of water for the last few months (since March, on and off) and when you pay $44 a month for it, it damn well had better be good, it aint. If you order a pizza and it is delievered with all of the topings on one side of the pie, you send it back. If you order a steak rare and it comes back well, you send it back. When you order a tailed suit and the hem is off, you send it back but when you pay top dollar for water, you are to buy a filtering system? Homey don't play that! Fix the damn problem or lower the rates because you are hustling a subpar product

The water bill is too damn high!

Matthew Herbert 5 years ago

how do you get away with only paying $44? I apparently shower/flush too much. $66 this month.

somedude20 5 years ago

2bed 1 bath apartment. shower once a day for about 5 or so mins and maybe flush 6 or 7 times (if yellow, let it mellow) to try and keep it down. I thought for the little I use (not even talking about the quailty) does not come close to the cost

gccs14r 5 years ago

Dual-flush toilets are your friend.

Lana Christie-Hayes 5 years ago

I have lived in Lawrence all my life, and have never experienced the smell and taste of the water being so vile!! I live directly behind DQ on Iowa Street, and it is truly disgusting!! I have noticed for years that it has a strong chlorine smell and taste. That I can tolerate. I have thought to myself, over the last week or so, that this water smells and tastes like it came directly from the lake~~ fishy and dirty!! YUCK!! I do hope they figure it out very soon, cuz I feel kinda like somedude.. I shouldn't have to pay to drink bottled or filtered water because the water dept. can't do their job and deliver a decent product!

Topple 5 years ago

I hadn't paid much attention until reading this, but I've noticed when I just rinse my hands off, the water smells awful. This happens annually??

Lana Christie-Hayes 5 years ago

Topple.. I've never, ever, in the 50+ years I've lived in Lawrence experienced this with the water. The moment I turn the faucet on it makes me grossed out to smell it! I'm going to boil it for drinking.. or get some kind of Brita filter perhaps, but just showering and doing dishes in it disgusts me. That "annually" crap is b.s.! It's never been like THIS before!

Richard Heckler 5 years ago

We've been distilling our water for about 20 years. Yep tastes really good. The home distilling units last forever....going on 21 years.

If repairs are necessary = easy by design. Pure Water is our brand.

Richard Heckler 5 years ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

otto 5 years ago

I like it - it has a little bite to it.

Ron Holzwarth 5 years ago

From the headline: "safety not a concern, they say".

Yes, "they say." Relatively speaking, it wasn't that long ago that "they said" many radioactive substances, among many other things, weren't a safety concern.

But on the bright side, maybe it's no longer necessary to fertilize any of your house or garden plants here in Lawrence these days. .

Topple 5 years ago

More lead for my toothpaste container, please! More mercury to roll around in my hands in chemistry class, please! More Chlorofluorocarbons in my hair spray, please! More asbestos in my ceiling tiles, please!

Laura Wilson 5 years ago

I guess I should feel lucky as I'm just west of Iowa too and while I can taste it, I don't have any odor to the water, and I can live with the taste. My cats don't seem to mind, either. I made a pitcher of lemonade before I realized the water tasted weird and I can't taste it at all that way.

I'm highly disappointed in my Brita, though. It's not filtering out the taste at all!

I googled musty tasting water this morning and the concensus was algae in the water treatment plants. Yay for google. And are we surprised we have algae so early in the summer? Have you seen the veg at the market? Everything is three or four weeks ahead of schedule due to the early heat!

LogicMan 5 years ago

Toss the old filter, scrub the jug and top all out, check for cracks, and put in a new filter. Make sure the new filter is firmly seated or untreated water will leak around it.

Matthew Herbert 5 years ago

almost guarantee an old filter is the problem. I love when people have water filters in their fridge, but haven't ever replaced the filter. An old filter is WORSE than no filter at all - great way to add bacteria to your water.

Leslie Swearingen 5 years ago

My Brita pitcher and bottle are working just fine. When the water does taste off I put in a new filter and that fixes the problem. I also have a water fountain with a filter for the cat because I don't want him drinking water from the tap. I believe this is just the way it is going to be from now on. The lucky ones will be able to get good water, the others not so much.

Jay Lovett 5 years ago

It's people! Soilet green is people!

riverdrifter 5 years ago

If you are drinking distilled water exclusively you should be taking plenty of mineral supplements.

Flap Doodle 5 years ago

I seem to have misplaced a big sack of rancid polecats. I wonder if I dropped it in the lake.....

brewmaster 5 years ago

So it was you. I was so mad the other night when I lost my truck-load on the way to the rendering plant. The whole thing bounced out over the bridge when swerving to miss a big moving sack on the road with slimy mucous oozing into the lake.

BringBackMark 5 years ago

And the City doesn't understand why the wholesale customers are bailing out.......

sickofdummies 5 years ago

I recently got a bacterial infection in a surgical wound after showering. When cultured, I was told the bacteria only comes from pond or lake water. Shouldn't the water treatment plant kill anything like that? Go figure.... thanks City of Lawrence.

Stephanie Harris 5 years ago

Interesting. My daughter has bacterial ear infections in both ears...happened in the past 2 days.

DefianceGal 5 years ago

the water has been fine where i live

gphawk89 5 years ago

Algae? Just start dumping chlorine tablets in at the plant and don't stop until the water clears up. That always seems to work for my pool.

Rae Smith Evans 5 years ago

so very glad to live in east Lawrence. Water tastes and smells normal (not that normal is great, but is sounds like the water in other parts of town is VILE!).

gossipgirl785 5 years ago

gossipgirl785(anonymous) says…

I called the water dept. today and asked what the reason was and they said that they are working on fixing this. They said they do not know why it has bad taste and smell but it shouldn't be bad for us to drink, even though its hard to believe because it smells like yucky swamp water and it doesn't taste much better! I asked if a water filter would help but they said they do not know....... Seems like they would or should know. This happened a few years ago as well becuase I had to call then and they said the same think. They said this time it should be fixed in a week hopefully.

gossipgirl785 5 years ago

gossipgirl785(anonymous) says…

I called the water dept. today and asked what the reason was and they said that they are working on fixing this. They said they do not know why it has bad taste and smell but it shouldn't be bad for us to drink, even though its hard to believe because it smells like yucky swamp water and it doesn't taste much better! I asked if a water filter would help but they said they do not know....... Seems like they would or should know. This happened a few years ago as well becuase I had to call then and they said the same think. They said this time it should be fixed in a week hopefully.

LogicMan 5 years ago

Previously they had to order extra chemicals (activated carbon?). Maybe they are doing it again. Anyone know if the needed chemicals are not practical to keep on hand?

whats_going_on 5 years ago

I haven't noticed it over by the West I70 exit. shrug

Tom Ballew 5 years ago

Never mind the odor in the water. It's harmless. Go back to your work, and your families. There is nothing to see here. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

blindrabbit 5 years ago

Traced the problem to raw water that is coming into the SouthWest Lawrence Water treatment plant from Clinton Lake! This appears to be related to the increasing numbers of people having direct contact with the lake by swimming and water skiing. To avoid un-bathed persons entering the lake it is now requested the all persons pre-wash prior to entering the lake, while this may seem burdensome, you cooperation is appreciated. If no hydrant or spigot is available, please use bottled water as you source. I'm sure this will solve the taste and odor problems, don't forget to recycle the plastic bottles.

labratt 5 years ago

Geosmin is one of the most common, naturally occurring, taste and odor (T&O) producing organic compounds found in drinking water supplies. It imparts an earthy odor to water that can be detected by the most sensitive people when present at extremely low concentrations (<5 ng/L, or <5 parts per trillion (ppt)). Utilitie Departments can expect “earthy” odor complaints if geosmin levels are above 4.0 ng/L in its finished water. Geosmin is produced by some species of cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) and actinomycetes (a filamentous bacteria). It is released after cell lysis and death and, depending on the species, it may also be actively excreted by healthy cells into the water column.
Geosmin does not pose a public health risk, but its detectible presence in treated drinking water can cause serious concerns in the eyes of the public about the aesthetic quality of the water supply. Utilities around the country receive high numbers of customer complaints whenever a geosmin outbreak occurs in their water supply. Geosmin is one of the most difficult T&O compounds to remove during water treatment.

LogicMan 5 years ago

RE: Judith A. Billica, Jill Oropeza, G. Keith Elmund

What's a little plagiarism between friends?

Topple 5 years ago

Mmmm, excrement in my water...

downriverdan 5 years ago

It seems this is a problem that is older than the past few days from comments here.

The City of Topeka river water plant intake had a plugged discharge line that was unplugged and a large amount of lime was released into the river all at one time on Saturday morning. It caused the river to turn a pale green color downstream for miles. Lime can increase the amount of carbon available for algae production.

I am not saying that that is the source of your drinking water woes but it smells like it.

Lana Christie-Hayes 5 years ago

And.. what about the pets?? My cat, who has some kidney and diabetes problems, suddenly got very sick this week. I replaced her water with distilled water and she seems to be doing better now.. ??? just sayin'. .. if it's bad for us (even tho they say it's not) what about the kids and pets?????

aha 5 years ago

Where is an update on this story? What's going on with the testing? When will the water be back to "normal"?

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