Elizabethtown water: Drinking quality questioned

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Some residents have complained of foul taste, odor

By Marty Finley

Elizabethtown water officials are working to combat taste and odor problems leaving the city’s treatment plant.

The water quality disturbances have led to complaints from residents, but it appears to be an isolated rather than widespread problem, said Scott Fiepke, engineer for the city’s water and wastewater department.

Fiepke said taste and odor issues typically arise in small pockets of the city during dry conditions because creeks are low. When it rains, he said, it can create a buildup of algae and other substances that enter the treatment plant.

The plant uses chlorine to kill algae and other pollutants, but Fiepke said the process sometimes creates an oily residue that causes an odor or foul taste in some homes.

He said the department has been trying to pinpoint the exact cause and eradicate it for years.

“I don’t know if we’re responding slowly or if we’re having a problem killing the algae,” he said.

While complaints are limited, he said it appears to be an issue the department must address every year in some capacity.

To counteract the taste and odor, the plant has been pumping more carbon into the system to reduce residue, but Fiepke said officials have to be careful when doing so because too much carbon use can kill chlorine in the system.

“It’s a delicate balancing act,” he said.

Jim Bruce, general manager of Hardin County Water District No. 1, said there have been no recent reports of taste or odor problems but said he understands why the city may be concerned because Freeman Lake is difficult to treat during dry conditions.

Bruce also said the district’s water levels are strong and benefited from recent rains that dampened the area. This summer, the district has sold water to areas with a need for more supplies, including Meade County, he said.

James Jeffries, general manager of Hardin County Water District No. 2, said its treatment process has run smoothly. The district has compiled a laundry list of best tasting water championships in recent years.

“District 2 has not experienced a ‘taste and odor’ issue this summer,” Jeffries said in an email. “Our customer contact log suggests that we still have great-tasting water.”

Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 or mfinley@thenewsenterprise.com.