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Does My Tap Water Taste And Smell Funny?

Released October 12, 2023 04:34 PM
This week, we have received a few calls from residents expressing concern that the water coming from their home faucets tastes and smells a little off.  That, of course, got our attention at City Hall, so we went looking for answers and learned that:

• The observant callers are correct.  Their tap water probably has tasted and smelled differently over the past several days.
• The water is completely safe to drink and poses no danger.
• The situation is not unusual and happens to varying degrees each Fall.

So, what is going on?

The taste and odor differences are caused by naturally occurring compounds formed by algae within Lake Lanier, the source of our drinking water.  The compounds, Methylisoborneol (MIB) and Geosmin, flow from the lake, down the Chattahoochee River, and into the Fulton County Water Treatment Plant that supplies water to our homes and businesses.  The algae grows in the lake throughout the year but grow and increase the compounds they form in late Summer and early Fall.

MIB and Geosmin do not pose any public health risk, but the human senses of taste and smell are extremely sensitive to them and can detect them in the water at concentrations as low as five parts per trillion.  They have a taste and odor that people often describe as “earthy” or “musty.

Fulton County Water Services is aware of the elevated MIB and Geosmin levels and has begun introducing activated carbon to the water as part of the process at the Tom Lowe Water Treatment Plant.  Activated carbon is effective in reducing taste and odor issues resulting from the MIB and Geosmin.

The taste and smell of your tap water should return to normal shortly, but there are things you can do in the meantime to make your water more enjoyable.  Both adding a little lemon juice to your water and chilling it in the refrigerator will improve the taste and reduce odors.