If you’ve gone anywhere near tap water in Bloomington recently you’ve probably noticed a foul earthy or musty smell and taste. The perennial issue is related to algae growth in Lake Monroe, the county’s primary water source.
On social media, some Bloomington residents have for days complained about the water tasting or smelling “like dirt or mildew” or even being “vaguely reminiscent of a fishtank.”
Last year:Bloomington tap water safe to drink; lake algae responsible for foul taste
Yes, but is it safe to drink Bloomington’s tap water?
City of Bloomington Utilities officials could not be reached, but according to the utility’s website, the stench is a result of the presence of organic compounds methylisoborneol and geosmin, which are not harmful to human health but “negatively affect the drink water’s aesthetics.”
While the utility says it uses powdered activated carbon and other materials for treatment, the foul taste and odor may persist especially during warm and dry periods.
Maggie Sullivan, watershed coordinator for the nonprofit Friends of Lake Monroe, said adding lemons and chilling the water can help mask the stench.
“It’s a challenging issue and there’s not an easy, short-term solution, unfortunately,” she said.
Environmental conditions affecting water quality
Algae blooms in Lake Monroe often occur in late summer and early fall when the water is stagnant and warm, Sullivan said.
Unfortunately, she said, there’s not much that can be done about the temperatures and the lack of movement to improve the water’s taste in the short term.
Longer-term, the nonprofit is trying to work with nearby landowners to reduce runoff into the lake. Phosphorus and nitrogen from nearby farms and malfunctioning septic systems contribute to the algae bloom.
Friends of Lake Monroe is waiting on final word about a federal grant that would allow the nonprofit and nearby landowners to share some costs related to conservation practices, Sullivan said. The nonprofit also plans to use some of the dollars to educate people on steps they can take to preserve the county’s drinking water source.
Looking for water without the stench?
Some local grocery stores are capitalizing on the stinky water: Bloomingfoods, for example, sells water treated with processes including reverse-osmosis super-oxygenation. Jacob Wittman, manager of the eastside store, said those processes remove the foul stench of the local water. The store sells the water for 49 cents per gallon. People can bring their own containers or buy three- or five-gallon jugs at the store.
Wittman said he has perhaps seen a slight uptick in bottled water sales recently, but the store generally gets a lot of customers who buy water, some of whom buy it in bulk, even up to 25 gallons at a time.
“We consistently move a lot of water,” he said.
The utility says on its website people who have more questions can contact the CBU water quality team around the clock at 812-339-1444 or send an alert through the city’s UReport system at bloomington.in.gov/ureport.
Reach Boris Ladwig at [email protected].