Some Drinking Water: Bad Odor and Taste

By: Elizabeth Donatelli
By: Elizabeth Donatelli

Aug 1, 2005

If you think the tap water tastes a little different, you're not alone. Citizens in Albemarle and Charlottesville have noticed a natural taste and smell to their water, but it's not necessarily good.

"Well I work at UVa--so it tastes really bad down there, terrible, I can't drink it," said Silvia LaRue of Earlysville. I don't know what's happened down there. They're flushing the lines or so I heard."

She's not alone--several citizens describe the taste as "earthy," but it's not because of flushing the lines.

"We believe that it could be a byproduct of the treatment process and we think it's coming from algae," said Robert Wichser of Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority.

"It tastes like dirt because it does taste as if it hit rock bottom of the reservoir as if they've gotten the dirt," described LaRue.

Now about 15 people have called in to complain about the smell and taste of their drinking water. The interesting thing is that there were similar complaints about this very thing last year.

"Generally in the warmer months in the summer when it gets really hot you can get an earthy, musty, taste and odor from bluegreen algae," said Wischer.

The Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority is monitoring the water daily with this equipment. They are also changing the treatment process by adding activated carbon to the water and the city and county have instituted flushing programs to improve the taste and smell.

"It's 100 percent safe to drink. There are no impacts whatsoever from drinking this water. It meets all the requirements," Wischer.

It does not appear to be an overwhelming problem, however to improve the taste yourself you can: chill the water, add lemon juice, or put the water through a blender first.

The Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority says it tests daily for bacteria and chemicals in the water.

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