Algae causing 'earthy' taste in Quincy water

Posted: Nov. 27, 2012 1:09 pm Updated: Dec. 11, 2012 1:15 pm

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

The tap water in Quincy may be tasting -- and even smelling -- off right now, and both the current stage and the slow movement of the Mississippi River are being blamed for it.

Utilities Director David Kent said the department has fielded a number of calls with complaints that the water is tasting "earthy."

"We're seeing an overabundance of what we call brown algae in the water," he said. "Brown algae have a tendency, when they are exposed to chlorine that we use for disinfection purposes, to impart a very nasty taste to the water."

Usually, the river has a large dilution factor that limits the growth of algae.

"When you don't have any rain, you have a lower pool stage, and that water is fairly dormant and doesn't move around a lot," Kent said. "That causes a lot of certain types of algae to become abundant."

The city has been treating the water with powdered activated carbon since Sunday to eliminate the taste.

"I would assume within a couple of days that we should see a dramatic turnover as far as people not having this taste in their water," Kent said. "Of course, some people are more sensitive than others."

The water is tested by the department daily and is safe to drink.

"It's just an unfortunately a situation that we have to deal with right now," Kent said.