GLWA pinpoints cause of water’s foul odor, taste

Sunday Times Newspapers

The mystery of the foul tap water odor and taste may be solved with the Great Lakes Water Authority saying it was due to the cleaning of its settling basins at its Southwest facility which primarily feeds Downriver communities.

GLWA Chief Operating Officer Cheryl Porter said an investigation into the water quality found the facility experienced a temporary spike in turbidity levels (water with a significant amount of particulates) that is associated with the normal cleaning of its settling basins.

Porter said once the staff determined it caused a foul odor and taste to the water, the cleaning was stopped about noon Jan. 12. Yet, some of the water treated left the plant and entered the distribution system with sulfurous taste and odor.

The GLWA has implemented a systematic flushing plan to clear the remainder of the treated water from its system. Porter said the staff will flush the water out of the system until the situation is resolved, yet continues to say the water is safe for consumption. It’s not known how long the procedure will take.

While the GLWA concluded that the water is safe, some residents aren’t taking chances and continue to boil tap water before consuming it.

“Taste and odor are associated with a spike in turbidity in the source water,” Porter said on Tuesday. “When taste and odor issues were raised in a number of downriver communities, the Great Lakes Water Authority expanded its testing, increasing the number of samples being taken at the Southwest Water Treatment Facility (which serves the communities affected) and within the distribution system. Results of this increased testing have all shown that the water meets the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Act regulatory standards and is safe.”

Porter further said the water test results indicate the water meets water quality criteria except for taste and odor.

Yet, after many Downriver residents suggested that their animals were sick after drinking the water, some aren’t trusting the tap.

“That may be, but I’m going to continue boiling my water,” said Teena Little of Lincoln Park. “I would rather take the extra time and be safe.”

Little said she has heard too many stories of pets getting sick from the water.

Taylor resident Chad Bouvier, who lives in the Eureka and Telegraph area, said his water is perfectly clear and has no odor. Yet, he is boiling it, too.

“After the Flint fiasco, where their water seemed fine and turned out to not be, I just want to be safe,” Bouvier said. “I don’t want to endanger myself or my cat and dog.”

Porter said testing also has been completed for bacteria, and all results have returned negative for bacteria in the water.

“In addition we tested the Southwest Water Treatment Facility source and tap for volatile organic chemicals,” Porter said. “The results indicated nothing unusual about the source or tap water.

“Furthermore, we collected and monitored for hardness, alkalinity, turbidity, fluoride, taste and odor in sample sites within the distribution system and monitored toxicity. Results indicate the water meets water quality criteria except for taste and odor.”

As taste and odor complaints increased, Porter said the treatment plant began feeding powdered activated carbon to mitigate taste and odor issues.

Porter said the Authority is testing water for treatment 24/7 to ensure water quality. She said typically, when the GLWA receives complaints it increases testing to investigate cause and ensure water quality. With that in mind, all Downriver communities were tested Jan. 12 and 13.

With an increase in calls, additional samples are being collected in the distribution system in those communities that have had an increase in the number of complaints.

Residents concerned about the water are encouraged to call their municipality.

(Tereasa Nims can be reached at