Augusta takes steps to get odor, odd taste out of drinking water

How’s your tapwater taste?

 

Augusta’s Utilities Department is adding extra chemicals to drinking water this week to resolve what customers describe as a peculiar odor and a muddy flavor.

“It began the early part of last week with two to three calls a day, and spiked about mid-week,” said interim Utilities Director Drew Goins. “This week, it’s gotten a little worse.”

The culprit, he said, is a seasonal turnover of layers of warm and cold water in the city reservoir at the Highland Avenue plant, which serves the area where the customer complaints have originated.

“It’s what has been described to me as a musky taste and odor,” Mr. Goins said. “When you have a large body of water like a reservoir, as the sun heats the upper layer, you have movement in the lower layer.”

Such turnover can create unpleasant taste or odor from sediment or various organic materials.

“It’s perfectly fine to drink—healthy and just fine,” he said. “But the nose is a wonderful instrument: it can detect something as small as 5 parts per billion.”

Engineers have begun adding carbon and potassium permanganate to water from the Highland Avenue Plant to help resolve the problem. Such additives are an industry standard for odor and taste issues.

“It’s a similar situation as when you have an algae bloom, but we haven’t detected any algae in our raw water reservoirs,” Mr. Goins said. “But we are taking some precautions anyway by putting out copper sulfate.”

The problem should correct itself within a few days, he said, and is unrelated to the ongoing construction at the city pumping station along the Savannah River.

The largest number of complaints in a single day was about 10, he said. The department serves more than 68,000 customers.

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