EVERETT — Bob Kelly knows that Everett has long prided itself on its clean pristine water.
And deservedly so.
He’s been drinking it for roughly 40 years.
This week was different for his palate.
The water at his home tasted metallic.
“I have no recollection of this taste being present before,” he said.
Kelly was right. There was something amiss, city officials confirmed.
They’ve heard from a few people.
“It’s not their imagination,” said Kathleen Baxter, a spokeswoman for the public works department, said Tuesday.
The culprit is Uroglena, which since 2011 has become the predominant type of algae in Lake Chaplain, one of the City of Everett’s main water sources. Weather, elevation and reservoir depth are factors in algae growth.
Uroglena tends to reach its most intense bloom in June and July. It affected the taste of Everett’s water once before, in 2015 when an intense early bloom occurred that May. It is known for producing a fishy taste and odor.
The water is safe to drink, Baxter said.
The usual practice during algae blooms is to draw water from an intake lower down in the lake where the water is cooler. That ordinarily fixes the problem..
“We did not in this instance because we were already drawing water from as low in the reservoir as we were able,” Baxter said.
Instead, the city is diluting the Lake Chaplain water with Spada Lake water, which doesn’t have the algae.
It could take a week for the taste to work its way out of the system.
Everett is the third-largest water purveyor in the state, serving about 80 percent of businesses and residents in Snohomish County through a network of local water providers.
The city’s water system serves an area with a population of about 570,000. Some cities mix Everett water with water from other sources.
“We haven’t heard from very many of our customers about this, but it’s possible that people with sensitive palates or sense of smell could detect it,” said Dave Davis, the city’s public works director. “We’re monitoring the situation on a daily basis and responding with appropriate measures to meet our customers’ expectations for water quality.”
The city monitors the taste of its water with tasting panel, which includes 10 staff members who sample and rate the water quality on a weekly basis. Because of the algae bloom, they’re now doing daily taste tests.
Some tasters work at the water filtration plant and some in town at the public works department.
They score the samples independently. They are looking for different flavor and odor characteristics. Examples include if it is sweet, sour, salty, bitter, earthy, musty, fishy, grassy, fruity, metallic or has a chlorine aftertaste.
The nine-point rating schedule ranges from “I would be very happy to accept this water as my every day drinking water” to “I can’t stand this water in my mouth and I could never drink it.”
Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; firstname.lastname@example.org.