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Groesbeck tackles occasional algae bloom in its water supply

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Posted at 10:55 PM, Apr 11, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-11 23:55:19-04

GROESBECK, TX — People in Groesbeck may not drink as much tap water as others do.

The town has an unusual problem that has people turning up their noses at one of nature's purest beverages.

A smelly, but natural occurrence, has people turning off the tap.

Dr. Kody Yerger first noticed it a couple of weeks ago.

Water from his kitchen tap had a funny color and odor.

"Occasionally yes. Some days it is a little off-colored. So it gives you pause, every now and then," Yerger said.

Most people in Groesbeck know it happens almost every year. Algae starts to row in the Navasota River, the city's water supply.

"Usually once a year, sometimes twice a year. But most of the time it's in March and April, which is what we're experiencing right now, " said Groesbeck Public Works Director Keith Tilley.

Some years are worse than others, depending on the weather. It gives the city's tap water an "earthy" almost "fishy" smell.

"Algae produces a chemical called 'geosmin' whenever you start treating it," said Tilley.

The algae dies off during the water treatment process, but the geosmin it leaves behind gives Groesbeck's water an unusual color and smell.

Lots of cities have similar algae problems.

Why?

Well, they say drilling for water in Texas is a lot like drilling for oil. You never know what you're going to find.

Cities that can't drill wells take their water from lakes and rivers. So, workers at Groesbeck's water treatment plant take extra steps to clear the water of any algae, or algae by-products.

The town's water gets filtered and goes through an ultraviolet light process that kills every living thing.

"I would say, our UV system takes out about 75 to 80 percent of it," said Tilley.

The water also gets chlorine treatment to kill off anything that might remain. But since geosmin is a by-product, and not a living thing, they can't remove all of it from the water.

Most people here have learned to live with this temporary inconvenience.

"As long as it gets filtered and is safe, I'm satisfied and not bothered by the taste of the water or anything," said Yerger.

Because the water meets Texas' state standards, Yerger doesn't worry... he just doesn't drink a lot of it during the algae blooms.

Other cities like Fort Worth and Palestine deal with the algae blooms, too.

A reverse-osmosis process might totally remove the Geosmoin, but city leaders say it would drastically increase the cost of the city's water.