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Bacteria may be cause of foul-tasting Waco water supply

Jan. 22, 1997

Matthew Lester/The Baylor LariatThe taste of city water has been affected most likely by algae growth in Lake Waco, the source of Waco's municipal water supply.By A. Latham Staples

Lariat Reporter

Cyano bacteria, commonly called blue-green algae, is apparently the cause of taste and color problems in the local drinking water supplied by Lake Waco.

'The foul smell and taste is the result of an organic compound called geosmin,' biology professor Dr. Owen Lind said. 'It is either produced by this thing commonly called blue-green algae or it is produced by another bacteria called actinomycete. At this time we are not sure which is causing the bad taste in the water supplied by Lake Waco because no studies have been done at this time. However, we believe that the blue-green algae is the source of the problems.'

Students have been complaining about problems with the water supply for months saying that the water is polluted and tastes poor.

'The water tastes kind of earthy and is thick in consistency,' Robin Worley, an Arlington, Va., sophomore, said. 'The water is also milky in appearance, not of its usual clear nature.'

Due to an excessive amount of rainfall in November and December, an abundance of nutrients were washed into the water. These mainly contained nitrogen compounds which help to stimulate the growth of the bacteria.

The Mount Carmel Water Treatment Plant said that the most effective way to eliminate the bacteria is to use carbon filtration in which the water is run through a filtration of activated carbon or activated charcoal.

Other techniques such as adding chlorine to oxidize the bacteria are used by the water treatment plant.

'Chlorine is always added to make the water safe, however, the treatment plant uses different chlorine compounds to oxidize geosmin molecules to help break it down,' Lind said.

Repeated calls to the treatment plant about the status of Waco's drinking water were not returned.

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