Claremont residents report ‘strange’ tasting tap water

Tap water in Claremont has been giving off a dirty taste and smell for the past few weeks, and the culprit is a particularly large algae bloom from a lake in the high desert.

Barnabus Path, Claremont resident and a member of Sustainable Claremont, says the water in question was bought by Golden State Water Company from the Three Valleys Metropolitan Water District, which sources the water from Silverwood Lake adjacent to Crestline. The lake has been experiencing lower water levels in recent years, which warms up the water and leads to the algae bloom, Mr. Path said.

“[Three Valleys is] able to manage it when the water temperature is lower,” Mr. Path said. “As the water levels fall, then the temperature rises.”

Ben Lewis, Foothill general manager for Golden State, stressed that the algae bloom is temporary and water is safe to drink and “meets all federal and state water regulations.”

Mario Garcia, assistant general manager in engineering and operations for Three Valleys, said the taste and smell comes from two organic compounds produced by the algae—Geosmin and 2-Methylisoborneol. Both of these compounds give off a strong earthy taste and odor. Algae blooms tend to happen this time of year, he noted, and copper sulfates are being used to treat the algae.

“When that water comes, there’s not much in regard to our treatment to take that taste out,” Mr. Garcia said.

Mr. Garcia said the drought “certainly doesn’t help us,” and noted that the bloom could have a lesser impact if drought conditions weren’t as bad.

Claremonters hoping for a quick fix should instead plan on dealing with the taste a little longer.

“If the conditions are right for the algae it could remain until the end of the summer,” Mr. Garcia said.

Meanwhile, the struggle for better tasting tap water in Claremont continues. “Even if you put it in your fridge or cool it with a filter, it doesn’t help,” Mr. Path said. “Brita doesn’t do anything.”

—Matthew Bramlett


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