Friday, July 29, 2011

Despite bit of a stench, Franklin's water is harmless

Despite bit of a stench, Franklin's water is harmless

Until cooler temperatures or more rainfall come this way, the distinct odor of the drinking water coming from some taps in Williamson County and elsewhere will probably linger.

Officials with the county’s primary water supplier, the Harpeth Valley Utilities District, say the mix of lower water levels in the Cumberland River, scarce rainfall and extended hot temperatures of 95-100 degrees have spurred algae blooms in the water.

Those algae blooms create compounds — known as geosmin and 2-methyl isoborneol or MIB — that have left many wrinkling their noses and smarting from the water’s taste, despite increased water treatment.

Ultimately, water management officials say the treated tap water is safe to drink. But if you feel like the smell is more prevalent and the problem more widespread than in summers past, you aren’t alone.

“This year appears to be worse than usual, as of right now,” said John Barnes, assistant general manager of the utility district.

Reports of foul-smelling water come from as far away as Nashville, Hendersonville and cities in Rutherford County.

“It’s really everybody who has surface water,” said Franklin City Administrator Eric Stuckey. “It’s really everybody.”

Much of Williamson County’s water comes from the Cumberland River. Water is pumped here by Harpeth Valley for use by cities and other utility districts. In addition to buying water from HVUD, the city of Franklin pumps some of its drinking water from the Harpeth River and treats it at its Franklin water plant.

In Franklin, water department staffers have been furiously flushing water lines to get rid of the foul-smelling water. More than 200 hydrants have been flushed since the problem surfaced last week, city officials said, and staffers worked more than 122 hours of overtime.

At first, the problem seemed heaviest in southern parts of the cities, but reports of foul-smelling water have spread.

City spokeswoman Milissa Reierson said crews are focusing on hydrants located on dead-end lines, as those seem to be having the most difficulties.

Stuckey said he feels like the problem has lessened somewhat in recent days.

“I don’t know when it will completely resolve,” Stuckey said. “Rain helps. Lower temperature helps.”

To help improve the water’s taste at home, Barnes recommends chilling the drinking water, which might decrease the smell, or using a carbon filter for drinking water, which should improve the odor and taste.

“There shouldn’t be any concern about the safety of the water,” Barnes said.

Contact Kevin Walters at 615-771-5472

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