Seasonal algae lends musty taste, odor to Beaufort County water supply

emoody@beaufortgazette.comJune 26, 2012 

  • Does your water have an "earthy" taste or smell? Contact Beaufort-Jasper Water and Sewer Authority at:

  • Beaufort residents: 843-987-9200

  • Hardeeville residents: 843-288-0006

  • Bluffton residents: 843-707-0017

Beaufort County residents, especially in northern parts of the county, might find their water has an unusual musty smell and taste for a few weeks, but officials at Beaufort-Jasper Water and Sewer Authority say it's nothing to be alarmed about.

The odor will be strongest in homes near the Chelsea Water Treatment Plant in Okatie. It's caused by naturally occurring seasonal algae.

The Chelsea plant serves northern Beaufort County. Although the authority expects most of the issues to be confined to that area, customers in southern Beaufort County might also detect the odor in their water.

The algae is abundant this year because of the unusually warm winter, authority spokesman Matthew Brady said. It's expected to subside within about a month.

"We appreciate the patience of our customers while we work through this seasonal issue," said general manager Ken Griffin in a news release. "We want to reiterate that the water is safe to use as you normally would, but you may notice a musty or earth-like odor."

Meanwhile, the authority is treating water with activated carbon similar to what is found in home water-filtration systems, he said. Customers who have such systems in their homes might incur less odor.

The algae is found in the authority's canal and reservoirs and is removed during filtration, but the taste and smell remain, Brady said.

The smell will be most noticeable in hot water, such as in the shower. It can be reduced in drinking water by refrigerating the water for about an hour, according to the authority.

The authority has received calls about the smell and taste, with a noticeable rise in complaints Monday, Brady said. Residents can call and report concerns, which the authority will track to determine where the odor is more prevalent.

Related content

  1. Does your drinking water taste 'earthy'?, Sept. 18, 2008
  2. Does your water taste funky?, July 10, 2008
  3. BJWSA addresses unusual water odor, May 2, 2002

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