MVSD says taste issues will clear up

YOUNGSTOWN — The Mahoning Valley Sanitary District and the cities of Youngstown and Niles have fielded a sizable number of calls the past couple of weeks about the water’s taste and smell.

Jim Jones, MVSD’s chief engineer, said the water district has been working to eliminate algae and bacteria brought on by fluctuating air temperatures and a lower-than-normal amount of rainfall, but the water is still safe to drink.

“It’s more of a nuisance,” he said. “We meet all of the (Ohio Environmental Protection Agency) water quality standards. Nobody’s going to get sick drinking our water.”

Jones said he cannot give a specific timeframe for when the water will return to normal, but he expects it to be soon. He said low amounts of rainfall have left Meander Reservoir a few feet lower than normal at the spillway. That means less water “turnover” is taking place, which negatively affects the water’s taste.

Jones said the issue arose about two weeks ago and is affecting the taste of water in various parts of the system. Thirty to 40 calls have come in to MVSD from Youngstown, Niles and other areas, some of them referred to MVSD from Youngstown and Niles officials. Jones said that is more calls than normal.

The MVSD is using carbon, which “acts as a sponge,” to cause the algae to “drop out” of the water during treatment. That is similar to what a Brita consumer water filter does, he noted. Additional chlorine is also being used.

Jones and Dan Blakely, assistant to the chief engineer at the Youngstown Water Department, both said this type of taste and smell problem is fairly common.

Boardman resident Anita Giambattista said she’s been drinking Youngstown water for 78 years and knows the water can take on an “algae taste” at times, but she called MVSD and the Youngstown Water Department because the problem has persisted.

“My opinion has always been that my water is the best you can get,” she said. “The problem usually goes away after three to four days. My question is, how much longer do we have to endure this?”

Giambattista said the smell has also been a problem. “It is so foul. I wash my clothes and the basement stinks,” she said, adding that her daughter’s house, which is a few miles away in Boardman, has had something similar.

“This is not an uncommon situation,” Blakely said. “It happens every couple of years.” Water customers are “at the mercy of the weather,” he said, adding that all of Youngstown’s water comes from MVSD, so the Youngstown Water Department is “at the mercy of the MVSD.”

He said the department has not been inundated with calls about the taste, but some people are bothered by it and others are not.

“I spoke to the lab Monday, and they said it’s under control, but it takes three to five days to leave the system,” Blakely said. It takes longer for the poor-tasting water to leave the waterlines in less-populated residential areas such as Youngstown’s East Side. It takes less time in high-volume commercial areas, he noted.


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