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Water customers left with a bad taste

Officials: Problem likely caused by organic substances, low river level

Officials: Problem likely caused by organic substances, low river level

October 07, 2005|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN

andrews@herald-mail.com

Hagerstown has been working for about a month to remove a bad taste and odor in its water supply, Chris Bordlemay, the acting manager of the Water and Sewer Department, said Thursday.

He said the problem isn't unusual and is probably caused by two things: a low level in the Potomac River, a main source, and organic substances in the water.

He said there is no health risk because of the change of the water's taste and smell. Rather, it's what's known as an "aesthetic" problem, he said.

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The city is using powdered activated carbon to help reduce the taste and odor problem, but is looking for a better solution, Bordlemay said.

He said river conditions are improving, too.

A steady rain, "giving the river a good flush," would help, Bordlemay said.

In September, Hagerstown had the second-longest dry spell in more than 100 years of record-keeping, weather observer Greg Keefer's Web site says.

The city had 25 straight days with no measurable rain.

The rain total for the month - .18 inches - was the lowest ever for a September, the Web site says.

Bordlemay said many water customers complained during a stretch when the powdered activated carbon treatment failed, but the calls subsided when the treatment resumed.

Washington County's supply, which is largely groundwater, is not subject to the same problems as the city's supply, said Greg Murray, the county's water quality director.

Murray said it's common for leaves and other organic substances to get in a surface water supply in the fall and give it a musty taste and smell, especially if there's a drought.

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