News Feature | March 18, 2014

How To Educate Ratepayers About Snow's Impact On Water Flavor

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome


Some northern utilities had to issue an unpleasant warning to customers this winter: tap water may taste strange for a little while.

Customers who noticed a funny odor and taste in their drinking water recently were not imagining it. Utilities are working to reassure them it is simply the result of melting snow. 

Missouri American Water, which serves nearly 400,000 customers, has led a campaign to educate ratepayers on this issue. The company says there is nothing to worry about. It alerted customers in the St. Louis area that their water "is safe to drink and use," according to KSDK.

The company explained "that increased silt from heavy snow runoff in the Missouri River is responsible for the foul smelling and tasting water that some customers have reported during the past week," the St. Louis Post Dispatch reported.

Ann Dettmer, a spokeswoman for Missouri American, told the Dispatch that the company "doesn’t believe the taste and smell is from the greater amount of chemicals, such as sodium chloride (salt), used to treat roadways during the heavy winter storms," the report said. 

"The utility conducts up to 500 water quality tests a day, Dettmer said, and has found that levels of organic materials are about twice as high as normal," according to the report. 

Dettmer said Missouri American has used "more carbon filters and not additional chlorine to take care of the problem," according to the News Tribune

“The carbon helps get rid of the taste,” she said in the report. “We stepped up our testing, especially at our river intake, customizing the process to surpass EPA standards for water quality.”

“When the snow melts, it travels down to the lowest point of the river, and it picks up whatever is on the ground, including material used to clear roads, as it comes down to river,” she said. “We knew it was coming and had a water treatment process in place, but we had more snow than anticipated. Since that time, we’ve made adjustments.”

Kansas City Water Services also informed customers that changes in the Missouri River may alter the taste and smell of their water. 

The water authority advised ratepayers "that recent warm temperatures and upriver precipitation have changed the characteristics of the Missouri River, which may affect the taste and odor of tap water," the organization said in a release

In Columbus, OH, Public Utility officials have an eye on the issue too, monitoring the city's water purification systems, ABC 6 reported

"Road salt and other materials used to treat roads could cause concern for residents as it melts into area streams and waterways. But officials say, by the time that water ends up in waterways the salt is so diluted that it shouldn’t cause issues," the report said. 

For more check out Water Online's Utility Management Solution Center.  

Image credit: "Snow Storm, Dec. 2008," © 2012 thisreidwrites, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license:

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