Lewiston officials say strange odor, taste of water is harmless

Lake Auburn pictured in this 2018 file photo. (Sun Journal file photo)

LEWISTON (Sun Journal) -- The city released a statement Wednesday morning in response to neighborhood complaints about the city’s tap water having a strange odor and taste.

The statement said there was “no cause for alarm.”

On its Facebook page, the city explained there were two reasons for the odor and taste: The annual “turnover” of Lake Auburn as the water cools and naturally occurring algae.

Superintendent Sid Hazelton of Auburn Water and Sewer said Wednesday the issue was a “seasonal variation” that can be common this time of year. The difference, he said, is the type of algae.

“When we chlorinate the water, algae cells are broken and enzymes are destroyed,” the city’s statement read, adding that as chemical compounds called chloramines form in the system, this slows the breakdown of these enzymes, leading to taste and odor issues.

“These enzymes are not associated with the typical blue-green algae that we frequently find, but rather with a golden or brown algae that is a known cause of odor and taste issues.”

Hazelton said the algae, which is harmless, is often referred to as smelling like cucumbers.

The statement said there is “no safety concern involved,” and the water is continuing to meet quality standards.

Hazelton said Auburn has been experiencing the same issues given the water comes from the same source. He said comments began coming in Monday regarding the water, but have already slowed as the issue dissipates.

The city is continuing to treat the water with chlorine and ultraviolet light, and was flushing the system in certain areas and cleaning some water-storage tanks to move the offending materials out of the system.

Hazelton said as the days grow darker and temperatures cool, the clarity of the water should get much better.

He said sunny, hot summers can lead to more algae. In September, the water district closed the lake to boaters for a day to treat the lake with algaecide.

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