SHENANGO VALLEY Company works to clear up problems with tap water

Refrigerating drinking water could make it more palatable for those bothered by the taste, a company official said.
SHARON, Pa. -- The Shenango Valley Division of Consumers Pennsylvania Water Co. is taking steps to reduce the musty taste or odor that its customers are finding in tap water.
The problem has been traced to the sudden, rapid growth of algae, which are microscopic plants, in the Pymatuning Reservoir, which feeds the Shenango River nearly 30 miles upstream from the water company's water intake pipe at its plant here.
The taste and odor are caused by trace amounts of a natural organic compound produced by the algae, said Kenneth W. Baumann, Consumers vice president and division manager, explaining that the rapid plant growth was caused by warm fall and winter weather and little precipitation.
Determining the cause: The company ran numerous tests in both its local laboratory and its parent company lab to pinpoint the cause, he said. There were a number of algae found to be present in the water but the main culprit is an alga called oscillatoria, he said.
The compound produced by the algae isn't harmful to health and not all customers will notice the taste and odor, because some people are more sensitive to it than others, Baumann said.
It's also less noticeable in cold water, so customers might want to refrigerate their drinking water, he suggested.
Trying to control it: Meanwhile, the water company has increased the amount of powdered activated carbon used in its water treatment process in an effort to control the problem, he said.
Taste and odor problems associated with algae growth in the Pymatuning and Shenango reservoirs aren't new, but it's been several years since Shenango Valley has experienced problems as noticeable as the current one, Baumann said.
The water company has worked with the state Department of Environmental Protection over the years to try to reduce the flow of certain nutrients into those reservoirs, particularly nitrates and phosphates from agricultural sources and sewage runoff that contribute to the algae growth, he said.
The company provides water to about 80,000 people in Mercer, Lawrence and Trumbull counties.

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