Tap Water

“If your water has a musty or earthy smell and taste, the water is safe to drink.”

That’s the scoop in a press release from the Cobb County Water System, which purchases drinking water from the Cobb County-Marietta Water Authority and distributes it to over 180,000 homes and businesses in unincorporated Cobb County and in the cities of Acworth and Kennesaw.

Cobb County Marietta Water Authority general manager Glenn Page said the system has received hundreds of complaints from north and west Cobb residents starting about two weeks ago.

Two naturally occurring compounds are behind the off-tasting water. They are called geosmin and 2-Methylisoborneol, also known as MIB, and they are currently at high levels in Lake Allatoona.

“They’re both microscopic organic byproducts of decomposition of organics in the lake,” Page said. “It’s the same thing that gives taste to the beets or catfish, that’s why the smells are sometimes smells that people are sensitive to.”

Page said some people can notice the smell or flavor of these tiny tastemakers in as low a concentration as six parts per trillion. He said the county has seen concentrations as high as 25 parts per trillion.

The compounds are coming out in higher numbers in part because of high temperatures and lack of rain, Page said.

“When the water heats up, that decomposition of organic matter accelerates, so we have a higher concentration of these components in the lake,” he said.

At the same time, the Army Corps of Engineers, which manages the manmade lake, is dropping the water level to its winter depth, as it does every year. That means the compounds are concentrated even further.

Page said the authority has taken steps to keep the stinky water out of peoples’ faucets, including drawing more water from the Chattahoochee and less from Allatoona and changing the water treatment process.

Page said the number of complaints have dropped off since those changes went into effect, which he hopes means the problem is getting better.

But he said the problem will only be resolved when the weather cools down and we start seeing more rain.

“We apologize for the inconvenience, and we ask everybody to be patient and pray for rain and cooler temperatures,” he said.

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