Lake Michigan Algae Effecting Water Taste & Smell

Posted on Monday, June 25, 2018 | Press & Media, News & Announcements

During warmer months we sometimes experience periods when the water tastes or smells earthy or musty. This is a result of algae that grow in Lake Michigan due to warmer temperatures and longer days (more sunlight). When the algae is exposed to the treatment processes that make the water safe to drink, they can release compounds into the water. These compounds are NOT harmful, but they don't taste or smell good to some people.

This is a widely understood phenomenon in drinking water systems that use surface water sources like we do. Treatment plants up and down Lake Michigan's shoreline experience the same issue each year.

Each summer our lab does frequent algae counts in order to identify which types of algae are present and in what quantities. We have many years' worth of data that show the types of algae we see are NOT the kind that produce harmful toxins.

We have the ability to add carbon during our treatment to minimize the taste/odor and have already done so this year. However, we are limited in how much carbon we can add before it begins to disrupt other processes.

The taste and odor producing compounds can easily be removed by a carbon filter - either a pitcher style or the kind that attaches directly to the faucet. These are inexpensive and can be found at many local stores. The taste and odor are usually less noticeable in cold water, so using cold water for washing laundry or other household chores is best. Chilling drinking water in the fridge can be helpful if a carbon filter is not an option.

Please refer to other portions of our website or call 261.3572 for more information.  

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