Musty Taste & Odor
Occasionally Columbus water has an earthy, musty or fishy taste and odor.
These seasonal phenomena can be caused by the bi-annual turnover of our city reservoirs, or with the presence of varied algal blooms (photo) in the reservoirs or rivers.
It is important to note this taste and odor poses no health concern but one of aesthetic quality. Advanced treatment techniques involving powder activated carbon and remote real-time sensors are being used to help mitigate this problem.
More About the Current Taste & Odor Event:
• Since mid-November, customers in the Hap Cremean Water Plant service area have noticed a musty/earthy type of odor and flavor in their water. This plant supplies water to about half of Columbus’ 1.1 million customers & covers most of the Columbus service area north of I-70 (with the exception of Hilliard).
• The change in taste and odor was created by a seasonal annual reservoir turnover aggravated by a particularly challenging algal bloom in Hoover Reservoir, which supplies water to the Hap Cremean plant.
• While the taste is not what customers have come to expect, the water is still safe for public consumption and meets all EPA drinking water standards - though we do sincerely apologize for the inconvenience. Additional testing has been done by both the City of Columbus licensed plant operators and certified laboratory staff to assure the safety of the water.
• Due to the magnitude of this event and to try and alleviate the issue, Columbus is spending an additional $10,000 a day to add powder activated carbon at a rate of 50 milligrams per liter. This is 5 times the normal amount of carbon used. Typically 10 to 20 milligrams of carbon will eliminate a taste and odor event within a week.
Due to the type of algae in the reservoir (Anabaena), which is known for creating pond-like taste and odors, only a 60% taste and odor removal rate is being achieved, thus the treatment capabilities are not fully eliminating the problem. This is as much carbon as can be added that will have any effect. Other efforts are being made such as using water from different levels of the reservoir and other treatment adjustments. Everything possible that can be done presently is being done to try to restore the taste to what customers have come to expect.
• The last time a major taste and odor event occurred was 1998; it lasted two months. The duration of the current event is unfortunately impossible to predict because changes in the reservoir are needed before the situation can improve and much depends on weather patterns outside of our control. The colder weather may help kill the algae affecting the taste.
• Columbus is not alone in this issue: Akron, Toledo and Alliance have also dealt with it, as have other cities across the country.
• Algal blooms are caused by an excess of nutrients in water which may be a result of too much lawn fertilizer, upstream agricultural activity and rural septic tank nutrient loads. We can all help prevent algal blooms by limiting use of lawn chemicals.
• Capital improvements that have been underway at Hap Cremean and Dublin Road Water Plants to meet new drinking water regulations will provide additional water treatment methods in the future which will have the added benefit of reducing the likelihood of future taste and odor events. These projects will be completed in the next two years. $70 million is being invested in Hap Cremean and $200 million is being spent on improvements at the Dublin Road Water Plant.
• For updates, please join us on Facebook, which you will find under Columbus Public Utilities.
• For more questions, please contact the Water Quality Assurance Laboratory at 645-7691.