OWASA takes additional actions to address taste and odor in drinking water; water continues to be safe

OWASA said Thursday that its drinking water continues to be safe, and the utility has taken additional actions to resolve taste and odor in the water.

The taste and odor result from algae in the Cane Creek Reservoir and University Lake. OWASA’s treatment process removes algae from drinking water, but some organic compounds may remain and may cause earthy or musty taste and odor.

On Tuesday, May 30th, OWASA began releasing water from fire hydrants at 30 locations to bring fresh drinking water into storage tanks and 380 miles of pipes serving customers.

Water leaving the Jones Ferry Road Water Treatment Plant in Carrboro has close to normal taste and odor, but water with taste and odor remains in the pipe system. Releasing water from hydrants, or “flushing,” will accelerate removal of water with taste and odor.

OWASA has increased the use of powdered activated carbon at the treatment plant to help resolve taste and odor. On May 25th, OWASA began adding a chemical (sodium permanganate) to help neutralize taste and odor in water being pumped from the Cane Creek Reservoir. OWASA is now using water primarily from the Cane Creek Reservoir.

Algae occur year-round in all reservoirs. In the spring and summer, algae populations grow; this spring the algal growth occurred earlier than is typical for OWASA’s reservoirs. This may be due to the warm spring and large amounts of rain.

OWASA recommends three ways that customers may remove taste and odor:

  • Add a lemon slice to water in a container.
  • Store water in a container in a refrigerator.
  • Use a carbon filter.

Since May 12th, more than 150 customers have reported an earthy or musty taste and odor in OWASA water. Most customers should have noticed improvement by now.

OWASA will keep the community informed, and invites customers to contact OWASA’s laboratory staff at the Jones Ferry Road Water Treatment Plant at 919-537-4228 or wtplaboratory@owasa.org to report taste and odor.

“We sincerely apologize to our customers for the taste and odor, and for its duration,” said Kenneth Loflin, Water Supply and Treatment Manager. “We fully recognize that the community expects drinking water which is aesthetically pleasing as well as safe and healthful.”

For more information: