Orange County

OWASA steps up process of flushing out water’s earthy odor, taste

Cane Creek Reservoir, shown in an OWASA photo, is one of two reservoirs that provides drinking water to Chapel Hill and Carrboro. The other is University Lake.
Cane Creek Reservoir, shown in an OWASA photo, is one of two reservoirs that provides drinking water to Chapel Hill and Carrboro. The other is University Lake. Contributed

OWASA is releasing more water from its hydrants to flush out the musty taste and odor that has repelled some customers since mid-May.

Orange Water and Sewer Authority officials have said the water remains safe to use and drink. The musty, or earthy, taste is related to the spring growth of algae in the Cane Creek Reservoir and University Lake, they said.

The water has been regularly tested, they said, and treated at least twice with powdered activated carbon and the chemical sodium permanganate to address the problem. However, some remaining organic compounds can affect the taste and odor.

The latest step – to flush the tainted water through 380 miles of pipes – began last week. OWASA officials expect it to speed up the process of reducing the water’s taste and odor but noted it still will take time.

OWASA officials also noted that its employees consulted the Town of Cary water laboratory, which used a gas chromatograph-mass spectrometer to identify the organic compound causing the problem.

“The treatment changes OWASA has taken to remove taste and odor from MIB (2-Methylisoborneol) have been appropriate according to other experts in water treatment with whom OWASA has consulted,” a news release stated.

Tammy Grubb: 919-829-8926, @TammyGrubb

More information

Customers with concerns or questions can contact OWASA’s laboratory staff at the Jones Ferry Road Water Treatment Plant at 919-537-4228 or wtplaboratory@owasa.org. OWASA also will test customers’ water at no charge.

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