Algae giving Manatee Co. drinking water strange taste, odor

Lake Manatee, the source of the county's drinking water.

MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Manatee County officials say the tap water right now has an odd smell, and they’re urging people to use water filters. But, the problem may not only be isolated to Manatee County.

Utility officials tell 8 On Your Side the tap water throughout Manatee County may have an odd, earthy odor or taste.

“I have smelled my tap water from time to time having an odor to it, which is why we don’t drink it, we use it for washing and bathing,” said Manatee County resident Arden Moore.

The problem can be found at the source of the county’s drinking water, Lake Manatee. The lake has high levels of blue-green algae, or Cyanobacteria.

Despite the increased treatments they’re doing at the lake, the water still has an odd taste. But, they emphasize the water is safe.

“It’s absolutely safe to drink, its more of just a nuisance,” said Manatee County Utilities spokesperson Amy Pilson.

Experts say this algae bloom is not harmful, in fact, this algae is naturally found in most freshwater.

“They’re present, but they’re often at concentrations that aren’t a problem,” said Dr. Vincent Lovko, from Mote Marine lab.

Lately, it’s been very hot with no rain to churn the water. That, combined with nutrients from things like fertilizer, has led to this algae bloom.

Officials point out the problem isn’t isolated to Manatee County.  This can happen to any drinking water source throughout Florida.

“You might have the foul taste and smell of the water because of the Cyanobacteria bloom, but that doesn’t mean that there’s anything unhealthy about the water,” said Dr. Lovko.

Officials recommend you use a filter or add flavoring to the water, but some residents have other plans.

“I think it’s better buying it. You know what you’re getting is safe and been processed,” said Moore.

Utility officials are hopeful that once the summer rains come, this algae bloom can dissipate and the water can smell and taste normal again.

In rare cases, experts say there are some forms of this algae that can be harmful for your health. That is not the case in Manatee County and utility companies work hard to treat the water and keep it safe for residents. If you have any questions, call your utility company.

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