It might taste funky but the water in Sacramento is safe

Blue green algae blooms are are popping up in Sacramento waterways and making the water taste a little funky, but it's still safe to drink. (August 8, 2017)

If your water tastes like dirt then it's likely you live in Sacramento. Blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) blooms are are popping up in Sacramento waterways making the water taste a little funky

"They're amazing animals that have been around forever that do their thing when they need to do their thing," California Water Board director of informational management and analysis Greg Gearheart said.

He said the amount of cyanobacteria has increased in California waterways, more than expected. 

"It is a fascinating bacteria that has chlorophyll in it so it can convert light into energy and its the only bacteria of its kind, its like a plant and bacteria at the same time," he added. 

Blue-green algae can be toxic depending on its chemistry but locally we haven't had the bad kinds. 

"We have a really robust program of trying to keep up on the harmful side but its a whole other thing to try and talk about bacteria happening on an everyday basis," Gearheart explained. 

The board relies on drinking water suppliers to do that, like Privani Vaneyar, City of Sacramento's Water Quality Superintendent. 

"Right now this facility is making anywhere from 60 to 70 million gallons of water per day," Vaneyar said. 

The treatment facility near Sac State is one of two for the city, that is where Vaneyar had her office. She said it pumps water out of the American River, sending it through a long filtering process to make it potable. 

Vaneyar said the current compound found in Sacramento water from blue-green algae is called MBI and geosmin, the reason for the funky taste and smell. 

"It is musty, people say it taste like dirt," Vaneyar said. 

Unfortunately the facilities are not capable of removing this compound and because it is not harmful to anyone's health Vaneyar suggests chilling the water, adding lemon or installing a proper filter. She also said the smell and taste should go away as the weather cools down. 

"The algae dies down and through the winter months we don't experience it," she said. 

The California State Water Board does want to reassure the community that there is a program in place keeping track of harmful bacteria in the waterways. If you are at a local river or lake and see a blue green algae bloom, contact them and they will send someone out to test it. 

© 2017 KXTV-TV


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