What’s up with the water? Monroe algae bloom creates funky flavors

November 2, 2021

This fall, the water from Bloomington High School South’s water fountains has tasted and smelled a little bit off. The combination of the drier temperatures and the higher levels of algae found in Lake Monroe are to blame.

Noah Young, a sophomore South, has been noticing the difference in the water quality.

“It tastes a bit better, but doesn’t taste as good as it does in other places in Bloomington,” said Young.

Although the water may taste weird due to compounds such as geosmin and methyl-isoborneol, it is in no way harmful to anyone who drinks it, according to City of Bloomington officials.

Illustration by Sophia Chryssovergis

“While they affect the aesthetic appeal of the drinking water, these compounds are not a health concern,” said Yäel Ksander, the communications director at the Office of the Mayor, in an emailed press release.

One possible reason for the change in taste could be the cyanotoxins that algae blooms release.

AP environmental science teacher Amanda Figolah and her class believe these toxins could have caused the bad taste and odor. Another suggestion Figolah brought up was the possibility of fertilizer and sewer overflows into the water, but she said that explanation is less likely.

Illustration by Sophia Chryssovergis

One solution that the City of Bloomington Utilities has proposed is the integration of Powdered Activated Carbon, or PAC, into the water. PAC is an absorbent used to remove harmful contaminants such as geosmin and methyl-isoborneol from bodies of water and air.

These compounds come from the combination of the early fall warm weather and algae, and cause minimal problems with the water. CBU frequently tests the water to make sure it is as safe as possible to drink.

“At CBU we continually test water to maintain safety standards that meet or exceed state and federal regulatory levels so that the water our customers drink is safe,” said CBU Director Vic Kelson in a release.

Illustration by Sophia Chryssovergis

“We’re focused on identifying the cause of these unusual taste and odor issues to restore our customers’ usual good-tasting tap,” said Kelson.

This story was originally published by the the Optimist at Bloomington High School South.

What’s up with the water? Monroe algae bloom creates funky flavors