Drought may have caused sour taste and smell to EBMUD water

OAKLAND, Calif. (KTVU) -- East Bay Municipal Utility District has fielded nearly 300 complaints from residents about the tap water having a bad taste or odor with the complaints started on Saturday night, according to spokeswoman Abby Figueroa.

"All of the water that comes out of your tap is safe to drink. EBMUD water meets all state and federal guidelines," said Figueroa. "Unfortunately right now, there are changes to taste and odor that our customers here in the East Bay aren't used."

Brenda Scanzillo noticed the difference on Monday, when drinking tap water at a friend's home in Berkeley. She said the water tasted of metal and algae.

"It was gross. I could almost not even drink it. It tasted really bad. It was like a really strange," said Scanzillo.

Nearly one million out of the 1.3 million residents served by EBMUD were impacted, according to Figueroa. The reason for the issues -- late last week, the agency started pulling water from closer to the surface of the Pardee reservoir.

"We typically like to pull water from deeper in the reservoir where water is colder and the water is of higher quality. Right now, what we just did this past week was pull water from higher in the reservoir and at that point it's warmer, there's more sunlight that degrades the water and unfortunately more algae," said Figueroa.

Figueroa said even though the algae get filtered out before reaching homes, taste and odor compounds are left behind.

"Unfortunately there was this effect and it was much more widespread than expected. For now, we found a short term solution but unfortunately if the water supply numbers continue dwindling and if the drought continues, this situation might recur."

She says the agency had been trying to preserve cold water in the reservoir for later in the season.

"We want that cold water because in the fall, we're going to release that water into the river so we can improve the river for the salmon that come back to spawn, and salmon need cold water," said Figueroa.

EBMUD has addressed the problem but said the odor and taste issues may linger until the end of the week. Figueroa said refrigeration or filtration would help the taste and odor issues.