Algae bloom causes ‘metallic’ taste in Bremerton’s water supply 

This is your water supply, Bremerton.
This is your water supply, Bremerton.

Around the middle part of last month, did you notice a “metallic” taste in your tap water

I did. I remember finding it a bit odd but didn’t really give it much thought. And it went away after only a couple days.

Turns out there was a wider, if harmless, phenomenon at work. An algae bloom formed in the city’s surface water supply at the headwaters of the Union River, prompting public works crews to shut the supply off and use city wells to quench the thirst of residents here.

The good news: the algae bloom was harmless and, other than slightly impacting the taste, the quality wasn’t affected, according to the Kathleen Cahall, the city’s water resources manager.

“The water quality could not have been better,” she said.

But how did it happen? Cahall said that unusually warm days in May, combined with an unusually full reservoir — spring rain’s been at record levels — caused the algae bloom. Cahall and other water quality staff found Seattle and New York City had experienced similar blooms, and that they too were harmless.

Still, “It was very unusual. We’ve never had this happen before,” said Cahall, who’s been with the city for more than two decades.

About 10 customers called public works May 15 and 16 to report the funny taste. Crews shut off the surface water supply and used the time to perform some maintenance as well. The surface water started up again May 29.

To prevent it from happening again, Cahall said the city will keep the reservoir from getting as full as it did this spring during record rainfall. But she said that small algae blooms can and will happen from time to time.

Bremerton’s water supply, which keeps about six million gallons a day through its pipes, is one of the few in the country that predominantly comes from an open air water source. Casad Dam, constructed in the 1950s, is deep within the city’s watershed property, which cannot be accessed by the public.

Before it gets to your tap, the city’s water is run through ultraviolet light to kill any parasites, chlorine to clean it and is also tested to ensure it is safe.

Should you ever wonder if you’re water’s got a weird taste to it, don’t hesitate to call the public works’ information line at (360) 473-5920.

“We depend on people to call us,” Cahall said.

Casad Dam.
Casad Dam.

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