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Despite ‘Off’ Taste, City Water Deemed Safe


by Carla Occaso

MONTPELIER — “The water is simply not as appealing as it should be,” stated Tom McArdle, director of the department of public works in a written response to citizen complaints.

However, McArdle emphasized, the water is safe. He responded to posts from city residents regarding a strange taste to the water on the Montpelier Front Porch Forum, saying, “This note is posted to Montpelier water system customers concerning recent reports of musty or foul smelling water. First and foremost, please be assured that this is an aesthetic issue and not a potable water health threat. We recently conducted additional bacteriological sampling and all tests continue to be negative for adverse water quality contaminants. The most likely cause for this issue is a mechanical processing deficiency related to the proper delivery of additives which address taste and odor. This problem is exacerbated in the summer months when the organic loads in the water source are the highest which is a normal seasonal issue.”

Organic loads include dirt, sediments, plant matter and animal waste, McArdle stated. City workers will repair the issues causing the water plant to shut down during low water usage at night. McArdle said the problem should be solved by the end of August. “In the meantime, we are monitoring and supplementing the automated process with manual intervention as needed. We have made some adjustments to the treatment process for odor and taste as interim measures which will continue until the full automation system is restored. Again, the water remains safe to use and consume with no risk to health. The water was simply not as appealing as it should be.”

Comments from residents concerning the water include,

“My water has also been smelling musty and moldy. I’ve never experienced it like this before. What’s up?” — College Street resident

“We’ve noticed this past week our water smells earthy and tastes a little off too. Anybody have any insights or have called the city about it?” — George Street resident.

In addition to water issues, the sewer has given off an odor that, “seems to be creeping up Barre Street,” according to one resident in a post on Front Porch Forum.

“It is awkward having guests over, and take a walk downtown, having to explain the unexplainable!” A different Barre Street resident also lamented.

McArdle explained this by saying the “foul odor of sewer gasses emanating from the storm drain system on Barre Street in the Hubbard Street area,” is due to an improper connection from one or more nearby properties” or a malfunctioning storm water system. McArdle assured residents in writing that the Department of Public Works is working to correct the problem as soon as possible.

Below is a brief Q&A conducted by The Bridge:

Carla Occaso: How old is the city’s water system?

Thomas McArdle: The age of the overall system varies widely with some water mains less than ten years old and others approximately 100 years old or more. The majority of our primary transmission mains, treatment plant and storage tanks are less than 30 years old while the inner-city distribution mains are the oldest.

Occaso: Are there plans afoot for putting in a new one?

McArdle: By “new one” I will assume you are inquiring about the Montpelier water system transmission and distribution network in general. A master plan to upgrade the overall water system was prepared in the mid 1970s. As recommended, the treatment facility, storage tanks and the transmissions were completed first. We are presently in the process of updating the plan with a prioritization and funding discussion to follow.

Occaso: How much would it cost?

McArdle: Overall cost has not yet been finalized nor available for public release.