Moulton Water Superintendent Jay Johnson hopes to have a reoccurring “earthy” taste and odor permanently eliminated from the city’s drinking water supply after a preliminary testing phase is completed in the next month.
During a regular Moulton City Council meeting on Monday, Johnson received approval to seek financial aid and apply for grants that the city’s water department may qualify for in order to install a new carbon filtration system. Johnson said he believes a new system will help remove an odorous smell and taste found in Moulton tap water.
According to Johnson—who has received numerous complaints of bad-tasting water—algal blooms in the Sinking Creek Reservoir are responsible for the unpleasant odor and taste.
“The water is safe to drink,” Johnson said. “Obviously, my goal is to provide the customers with safe and pleasant drinking water. Although our water is safe by (Alabama Department of Environmental Management) standards, it is understandably very unpleasant and alarming for customers to pour a glass of water that has an odor and terrible taste.”
Addressing algal blooms is not a new challenge for Johnson and the Moulton Water Department. Johnson said the taste and odor impacts were expected to occur this year after rising temperatures and heavier rainfalls increased the chances of algal blooms producing the organic compounds responsible for bad-tasting water.
Johnson said the Moulton Water Department is working with an environmental firm—alongside Dr. Alan Wilson, the chief aquatic sciences, agriculture and fisheries director at Auburn University—to identify the exact compounds found in Moulton’s water supply by sampling source lakes, the city’s treatment plant and select customer sites.
“Once we have identified the (taste and odor) compounds, we will implant a temporary, pilot study treatment process to measure water chemistry so that we will be able to choose the most optimum long-term treatment solution,” Johnson said. “At that time, I plan on being able to provide the council with project cost, effectiveness and any financial aid that we will be approved for.”
He said a new carbon filtration system could cost several hundred thousand dollars, also factoring in maintenance and upkeep for the system.
“This is a time sensitive project, that is why I am asking for permission to move forward with possible funding options,” he told council members Monday night. “This will be a huge step toward keeping project cost to a minimum, which in turn will hopefully keep our water rates at a minimum without a potential increase.”
He said it could take at least a month to determine which pilot plan will be implemented to help eliminate the problems. In the meantime, Johnson said there are additional steps water customers may take to reduce the earthy taste and smell. He says refrigerating tap water in a pitcher overnight or heating tap water should help.
In other business, Moulton Council members also approved abatement costs for two properties on East Street owned by Tommy Joiner. Moulton Mayor Roger Weatherwax said structures on the properties were recently demolished by the city, which will be reimbursed for demolition costs as well as attorney fees accrued during an appeal process by imposing a tax lien on the two properties.
The next Moulton Council meeting, usually held on the third Monday of the month, has been moved to Monday, Jan. 24., in observance of Martin Luther King Day. All council meetings take place at City Hall at 5 p.m. and are open to the public.