Does your drinking water taste 'earthy'?

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Does your drinking water taste 'earthy'?

By LIZ MITCHELL lmitchell@islandpacket.com 843-706-8169
Published Thursday, September 18, 2008 in The Island Packet  |  422 Words  |  news/local

If you're a customer of the Hilton Head and Broad Creek public service districts, you might have noticed an "earthy" taste and smell to your water recently.
You can blame an algae bloom in the Purrysburg reservoir the Beaufort-Jasper Water and Sewer Authority uses to serve customers in southern Beaufort and Jasper counties.
The authority says the water is safe to drink -- and will taste better if you put it in the fridge overnight.
The reservoir is located just outside Hardeeville near the Savannah River and has produced "earthy" water several times this summer.
The problem is expected to last through the weekend as the authority works to further treat the water.
To fix the problem, the authority is treating the water with "powder activated carbon," a powder version of charcoal. It also is drawing water straight from the Savannah River until it can restore the water in the reservoir.
Spokeswoman Jerrie Legare said the authority noticed the problem a few weeks ago when lab technicians took samples and conducted taste tests. The authority also had received several customer complaints.
Algae blooms occur naturally in surface water systems, typically in the early spring, according to the authority's Web site.
"It is a direct result of sunlight and high temperatures, and it is extremely difficult to eliminate the musty taste and odor of the algae in the treatment process," the Web site said.
The authority is looking at lasting solutions as well.
"While we are working on adjusting the treatment of the water to mitigate the problem, our engineers are also looking at what we need to do to solve the problem long-term," Legare said. "This could continue into October. But when cooler temperatures arrive and the climate changes, then we think the problem will be finished for this year."
The Hilton Head Public Service District said some of its customers complained of the taste and smell.
The district, which serves about 17,000 residents in the north-and mid-island areas, purchases half of its drinking water supply from the authority.
The Broad Creek district, which serves about 5,000 mid-islanders, purchases much less water from the authority and relies mostly on groundwater sources.
Before the bloom, Broad Creek General Manager Russell Hildebrand said he had planned to increase the amount of water supplied by the authority Wednesday night to give local wells a break.
Now he will wait until "after the weekend when the taste problem dissipates," he said.