The Water May Smell, But It's Still Safe


To some, tap water in Decatur smells like paint thinner or even bleach. But the smell doesn't mean the water is dirty.

Only for the past month or so has the cities' water treatment plant been getting calls from residents about a funny smell and even taste in their tap water.


"The tap water tastes kind of like.. murky, and just very interesting and gross, said one Decatur resident."

"Sometimes it smells fishy and then other times it tastes like coins, said another."

Keith Alexander is Director of Water Management for Decatur. He says it's a seasonal inconvenience.

"We typically have this in the middle of winter to late winter when things start to thaw out rather rapidly and we get a large influx of new water into the lake, said Alexander."

Rapid snowmelt and rain washes moderate amounts of unwanted particles into the lake. This slows down the purification process and the odor and taste filtration process. However, the water is still clean and safe to drink.

"We meet and exceed literally every federal and state drinking water standard," said Alexander. "In other words, the water is clean and safe to drink."

That's because odor and taste are handled separately from water purification.

"We use a product called powdered activated carbon," said Alexander. The carbon chemically locks up the molecules and compounds that are causing the taste and odor challenges."

It filters it out. Because of the snowmelt, this filtration system isn't working as well as it normally does year round.

"We would anticipate as the lake temperature warms up, that we will have less taste and odor challenges in the coming weeks.

He says the water should return back to normal in two to ten weeks.

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