QUINCY — Jeffrey Conte, director of public works for the city, says the earthy smell you might have recently noticed in your tap water should be gone by the end of the week.
Conte addressed aldermen at the beginning of Monday night’s Quincy City Council meeting to provide an update on what the city has done in the past week to address complaints.
“First, I just want to state outright that the water is safe to drink,” he said. “Taste and odor are not indicative of whether or not water is potable. We take the aesthetic qualities of water — taste, odor, hardness — very seriously. Just because there’s an off taste right now does not mean the water is not safe to drink.”
Conte believes the source of the smell is algae growth in the Mississippi River water.
“This happens every few years,” he said. “With the dry summer we’ve had, there have been very low flows on the river.”
The calls to the city complaining about the smell of the water started last Tuesday, Conte said. He believes his department has received “about 15 to 20 calls.”
Conte says the city uses potassium permanganate at 0.25 parts per million in its water supply. However, it increased that amount to 1.5 parts per million in the past week. Potassium permanganate is a point-of-entry treatment method that oxidizes dissolved iron, manganese and hydrogen sulfide into solid particles that are filtered out of the water, eliminating taste and odor issues.
“It seems to be effective. We’re going to stay on top of that, keep grabbing samples and make sure it continues to work,” Conte said. “We thought we were heading the right direction when we first used permanganate to deal with it. It started to go down, then the calls kind of came back stronger on Sunday and Monday, so we really cranked it up a lot higher. We’ve never had it this high before.
“This is really our best course of action. It seems to be working.”
Conte says it typically takes three or four days for the potassium permanganate to be effective and eliminate all the smelly water out of the city’s pipes.
Conte also noted most of the complaints about the city’s water came from women.
“Women tend to be a little bit more sensitive than men, for whatever reason,” he said. “Some people don’t notice anything. You can give two people the same glass of water. One person will say, ‘I can taste that,’ and the next person will say, ‘I don’t taste anything.’”
Conte told aldermen the city could investigate other options at the water treatment plant which could increase the removal of taste and odor.
“However, these (options) are $10 million or more, depending on the option you choose,” he said.
Conte said the last time he remembers the city’s water supply having an earthy taste or smell was in 2018.
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