Does your water taste strange? Officials blame algae bloom, but say it’s safe to drink

Blame funny-tasting water on algae blooms.
Blame funny-tasting water on algae blooms in Lake Chaplain.

Residents across Snohomish County have been noticing something odd in their tap water. Some find the taste and odor a little off, while to others it’s almost undrinkable. Edmonds resident Robert Swift describes it as tasting “like it went back through the sewer system.”

According to Everett Public Works spokesperson Marla Carter, the problem is a persistent algae bloom in Lake Chaplain, the source of water for about 80 percent of the homes and businesses in Snohomish County including Mountlake Terrace, Lynnwood and Edmonds.

“Blame the warm weather,” she explained. “This month’s warm temperatures and ample sunlight have caused the algae that normally live in the lake to grow very rapidly, and be drawn into the water system at a higher than normal rate.”

Everett water quality technicians have been adjusting chlorination levels and flow rates to help minimize the taste and odor problems, and while most agree the problem is improving, the quality is still not up to standards.

The latest approach involves tapping water from the much larger Spada Lake, also managed by the City of Everett, and mixing it with Lake Chaplain water as it enters the supply system. “We’re hopeful that this approach will quickly bring our water back to the standard that our customers expect,” said Carter.

But even if it does, Carter cautions that it could take up to two weeks for customers to see improvements. “Depending on where you are in the system, it could take up to two weeks to flush out,” she said.

In the meantime, Carter assures all water customers that while it may taste and smell funny, it’s not a threat to health. “We monitor our water quality 24/7,” she said. “There’s no question that it’s perfectly safe to drink.”

Note that customers of Olympic View Water District are not affected by this problem. Olympic View purveys water from the Tolt Reservoir, operated by the City of Seattle Public Utilities. Olympic View serves homes and businesses located between Highway 99 and Puget Sound, 220th St SW and the King-Snohomish county line.

— By Larry Vogel


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