Odd tasting water explained

Officials say no health worries with “cucumbery” smell, taste

by Tom Coombe
In some parts of Ely, the city’s drinking water has a slight cucumber taste or smell.
But city officials say there’s no cause for alarm.
“There are no health concerns,” said Harold Langowski, the city’s clerk-treasurer and operations director, during a report at Tuesday’s city council meeting. “It is safe to drink. It’s just an aesthetic issue.”
Langowski said the Minnesota Department of Health is also aware of the issue and has been consulted about a problem that has affected drinking water for several weeks.
The issues, according to Langowski, stem from an extended cold snap in February, when there were 12 consecutive days of below-zero temperates, and subsequent water main breaks.
“It resulted in at least quarter million gallons of water flushed through our system,” Langowski said of a major early-March break. “Following that we started to get some concerns and complaints about discolored water.”
Langowski said the discoloration wasn’t unusual, and “we felt at the time that’s what was causing the issue.”
Two weeks later the problems persisted after another large water service break.
“Following that we started to get some calls about some odd tasting water,” said Langowski. “I think everybody is accustomed to Ely’s drinking water which is probably some of the best drinking water of any municipality I’ve been to.”
Langowski said that many of the complaints were similar, and that when he tasted the water he described “a faint cucumber taste is what I experienced the first time I tasted it and many have explained it the same way.”
Other communities have had similar issues with drinking water, and the cause is an algae that occurs in surface water.
“You would never have noticed it if it was raw, but we treat it with chlorine and it releases a cucumbery smell into the water,” said Langowski. “There are certain times of year it does have a different taste as water changes in the lake.”
Ely draws its drinking water from Burntside Lake, and with ice recently coming off, Langowski told the council “I hope it results in a change.”
The city has also adjusted its chlorine levels in filtration and distribution.
“Hopefully in the upcoming week we’ll see a change,”said Langowski. “The bottom line is the water is safe to drink. There are no health effects. Hopefully this resolves over a period of time.”