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Drought gives drinking water an off-taste

Posted on Wednesday, September 19, 2012 at 1:19 am

The City of Vandalia’s water structures.

Low levels at the Vandalia Lake have put a foul taste into residents’ mouth in Vandalia.
The lack of snow and rain through the year and record summer heat have zapped rainwater before it reached the lake to freshen Vandalia’s municipal water supply throughout the year. Though, scheduled maintenance at Vandalia Water Works should help address the issue.
Currently down by about three feet, low water levels and no fresh rain inputs at the Vandalia Lake have positioned the City of Vandalia’s raw water intake into a different stratus, or level, that gives an off-taste to municipal customers. The water at the lake is also stagnant.
“All that water has been sitting for a while,” said Darren Berry, chief water plant operator. “Whenever you experience lower levels in the reservoir, you have that problem.”
Even with recent rains, lake levels have dropped from about two to its current level of three feet low.
“We’re getting no runoff, everything is sucking up the water,” Berry said.
He said this time of the year is typically bad for taste and odor issues with the municipal water supply, but it’s when the lake turns over during the fall that the problem can be worse. He said spring and fall maintenance help alleviate the problem.
Each spring and fall the water basins receiving water from the lake are cleaned of algae and other organic matter that also add to a displeasing taste. Workers cleaned the second basin Wednesday, September 12. The first basin is expected to be cleaned by October 26.
“Cleaning out the basins is a big help,” Berry said.
He said he also flushes out the infrastructure each spring and fall to clear stagnant water that may be stuck in the lines. The next flush will occur by the first two weeks of October.
Berry said increasing the carbon feed, which treats taste and odor issues, also alleviates the problem. Berry said he increased the carbon feed on Friday, September 14.
Treatment of Vandalia’s municipal water supply starts at Vandalia Lake with Earthtech, a new copper based algecide/bactericide that is being implemented by the City of Vandalia to treat raw water from the lake.
The water is then treated in stages at the water works facility.
First, the supply is treated with carbon to reduce taste and odor issues.
After being treated with carbon, the water is treated with aluminum sulfate to settle dirt and debris. Lime is then added to soften the water.
The final step treats the water with chlorine for pathogens, like E-coli. The treated water is then transferred to the million-gallon water tower.
“We’re really fortunate of the water supply we have,” Berry said, referring to the alternative of wells in the area that tend to be laden with even more noxious contaminants.