Climate change and global warming may be affecting N.J. public water sources
United Water New Jersey, which serves about 812,000 customers in the northern half of the state, detected a "large" algae bloom in a West Amwell Township reservoir for the first time and now plans to step up monitoring.
The West Amwell reservoir feeds the Lambertville public water system. Algae blooms are common in shallow reservoirs, said company spokesman Steve Goudsmith, but this was the first time a large bloom appeared in this body of water, which is in a wooded area.
In an email yesterday, Nov. 15, company director of water quality and compliance Keith Cartnick wrote that "in light of changing weather patterns and global warming considerations, we have begun discussions" with a local hydrology firm "to develop an improved reservoir monitoring plan for Lambertville, and PAC (powdered activated charcoal) treatment options are also being investigated."
Cartnick wrote that the charcoal treatment "could address both T&O (taste and odor) and potential algae toxins, should the need arise."
It is already used "successfully" at United Water's Haworth and Matchaponix facilities to control taste and odor, according to Cartnick.
Some residents have been complaining about the smell and taste for the past couple of months. One said that she has been told that the problem was caused by a potentially dangerous algae.
State Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Larry Haina said today that a review of the tests conducted by United Water confirmed an issue with taste and odor, but said it is "not a health concern."
Mayor David DelVecchio has passed the testing results on to two other experts in the field to confirm the findings, City Clerk Cindy Ege said today. "He wants to cover every base."
The residents are "international in their expertise in water quality" and are reading the reports at no charge to the city, said the mayor.
Goudsmith said that natural seasonal "turnover" of cold and warm water at the reservoir may have also contributed to the taste and odor issue. He said the turnover happens when surface water cools and sinks to the bottom, pushing what is now warmer water at the bottom to the surface. But there was "certainly an algae bloom," he said.
Going forward, United Water "wants to be pro-active" and will increase "monitoring for the algae and early stage treatment in the reservoir."
He said that water quality tests show that the public's water "continues to meet, or surpasses" regulations.
Lambertville resident Kara Hughes said that she started complaining about a musty odor and taste in the city's public water weeks ago, and in an email from United Water it appeared that several complaints daily started in mid-October.
Hughes has lived in the city for 14 years and now has two young children. She said the strength of the odor fluctuated, but was frequently offensive enough that she washed her children's clothes elsewhere and started relying on bottled water.
"It's not sulfur. It's like a really strong, musty basement," she said. "Our laundry and hair was reeking of swamp!"
Last week she noticed improvement, saying it had "a bouquet of chlorine on top of it."
Hughes worried today about the safety of her family's drinking water over time.
United Water Lambertville serves nearly 4,000 people in the city and portions of West Amwell.