Blue-Green Algae Can Cause An Unpleasant Taste

Blue-green algae forming in a local waterway

Some residents in South Carolina have recently noticed a displeasing change in the smell and taste of their tap water. Water officials believe the change in smell and taste is caused by the presence of blue-green algae in Hartwell Lake, a main water source for thousands of people.

Blue-green algae, also known as pond scum, grows in lakes, ponds, and slow-moving streams when the water is warm and enriched with phosphorus or nitrogen-based fertilizer runoff. Unlike other algae, organisms do not eat the blue-green algae, causing the algae to grow rapidly. As the algae grows, it can reduce light penetration and eventually deplete the levels of oxygen in the lake, killing fish and other organisms.

The foul odor and taste is attributed to the naturally occurring compounds, geosmin and methlisoberneol, which are produced during the growth cycle of the algae. While harmless, the compounds are challenging to remove through conventional surface water treatment and are noticeable at very low levels. Most people complain of a musty or earthy odor and taste.

Once the water is treated it does not pose a health threat and is safe for cooking, laundry and bathing, but many find it to be unpalatable. Many locals and businesses have switched to drinking bottled water.

Our suggestion? Switch to a Quench filtered water cooler, which is like having a miniature water purification plant in your office! That means you get the cleanest, best-tasting water delivered directly to your glass.