Complaints of “earthy” tasting water are now being heard at the Hannibal Board of Public Works.
“We started getting calls last week,” said Cindy Livesay, public relations coordinator for the BPW, who stressed the water is safe to drink. “They (volume of calls) kind of fluctuated higher this weekend. We’ve been getting a lot of calls today (Monday). Basically what they’re saying is that some of them smell an odor. Some of them mention a funny taste; It’s an earthy, or muddy, or dirty taste. It’s just kind of an aftertaste.”
Not everyone is aware of anything unusual.
“Some people complain of the taste. Some people don’t notice it at all,” said Livesay, adding she has not noticed a different taste. “The problem is there’s no way of testing for taste. What one person tastes another person doesn’t.”
The situation is not confined to a particular neighborhood.
“It’s not isolated to any one area in Hannibal, it’s all throughout,” said Livesay.
The complaints in Hannibal follow similar reports in Quincy, Ill. According to Heath Hall, director of operations for the BPW, Hannibal and Quincy are not unique in regard to having “muddy” tasting water.
“Other water treatment plants along the Mississippi River have been experiencing similar problems for the past few weeks,” wrote Hall in a media release issued Monday afternoon. “The taste, sometimes accompanied by an odor, is being attributed to problems with algae growth related to dry weather and unusually low river conditions. We are staying in contact with other treatment facilities whom are facing this same problem.”
The BPW has also been in touch with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources about the issue.
“They’ve not given us any great solutions, time frames or anything like that. It’s kind of a work in progress. We’re all trying to nail it at the same time together,” said Livesay.
Regular water quality tests are being performed “at the Hannibal Water Treatment Plant and within the water distribution system to ensure the water is safe to drink and use for other purposes,” wrote Hall.
The amount of chemicals being used to treat the water has been tweaked in an effort to deal with the unusual taste.
“We’re throwing about double the amount of carbon that we use at it,” said Livesay.
While it is not uncommon for the BPW to issue a boil order after a water main has broken, Livesay says such a step will not help in this situation.
Page 2 of 2 - “When we do a boil order it’s because of something getting in there. This is not anything like that,” she said.
There is no time line for when the taste will disappear.
“Our hope is that within a few days the earthy tasting water will be flushed out of the water system, and the taste will be back to normal,” wrote Hall, adding that the city’s “water is safe to drink and use as necessary.”