Water Department Superintendent Greg Dutton has his fingers crossed that the problem with the taste and smell of Moulton's water has been corrected.
He will have his answer when he receives test results on water samples pulled on Tuesday, Feb. 19.
In the meantime, many Moulton residents and local restaurants are worried about the water being safe to drink.
"It has been awful. Our customers have complained and changed drink orders," said Wendy Littrell at Western Sirloin Steakhouse in Moulton.
"We have had customers tell us they have come to Guthries because we filter our water," Guthrie's employee Caitlin Martin said. "We have filters on our ice machine and all our drink machines."
According to all water test results, Moulton's water is safe to drink. It complies with all Alabama Department of Environmental Management standards for safe drinking water.
"The water at Moulton is monitored on a regular basis by us," ADEM spokesman Scott Hughes said. "The water is in compliance with all maximum contaminant levels for safe drinking water. We have been working with Moulton to solve the problem."
The culprit causing the earthy taste and smell is called Geosmin. It is one of the most common, naturally occurring, taste and odor producing organic compounds found in drinking water supplies. It is produced by some species of blue-green algae. According to Weck Laboratories, LLC, an independent lab in California, Geosmin does not pose a public health risk and the water is safe to drink.
Geosmin is also one of the most difficult taste and odor compounds to remove from drinking water. The problem with Moulton's water supply has certainly proven that fact.
The problem began in the middle of November. The problem was first thought to be produced by the lake water overturning, and the water was treated accordingly. When the problem persisted, Dutton began having the water tested to see what was causing the problem. Extensive tests were conducted in December and January by TTL Lab in Tuscaloosa and also in a specialized lab in Indiana.
After the Geosmin was detected, Dutton said, a treatment involving copper sulphate was tried. Test results showed the copper sulphate was not as effective as it should be.
On Friday, Feb. 15, Dutton said a treatment using powdered activated carbon was put in place. Samples were pulled for testing on Tuesday. How the water will be treated in the future depends on the test results.
If the activated carbon solves the problem, it will take several days for the newly treated water to flow through the entire system.
Moulton has two water storage tanks with a capacity totaling 1.4 million gallons. While those tanks are not full, the water in them will have to flow through the system. There is no way to drain the tanks.
Dutton said he is planning to begin aggressively flushing water lines to get the old water out of the system.
If the activated carbon does not completely take care of the taste and odor, Dutton said he would continue to work with ADEM to find a solution.
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