Aberdeen water may have odd taste and smell, but it's safe to drink, city officials say

Mayor says Aberdeen's water is tested daily and "is never harmful"

If you live in the City of Aberdeen and have noticed a different taste or odor to your water, don't be alarmed. City officials say it's perfectly safe to drink and use.

The problem, which relates to the source and the weather, isn't new and typically crops up in the summer, city Public Works Director Kyle Torster said, while acknowledging they have received complaints.

"We want to assure people the water is safe to drink," Torster said, after he brought up the subject at Monday's meeting of the mayor and city council. "We usually get it in the middle of August when the surface water reaches 80 degrees. It's more noticeable, if the water sits in your pipes."

The city posts a water quality consumer confidence report on its website, as required by the Maryland Department of the Environment and federal Environmental Protection Agency, and the water meets all standards as shown in the report, Torster said. The latest report can be viewed at www.aberdeen-md.org/sites/aberdeenmd/files/file/file/ccr-coa_2015_hgb-skinner_edits.pdf.

"What's going on is the staff is testing our water daily," Mayor Patrick McGrady added. "It's never harmful."

Aberdeen's city water comes from two sources: the city's well field on Short Lane and treated water from Harford County, Torster and George Skinner, facilities assistant superintendent, explained during a follow-up conference call with The Record on Tuesday.

The city well water and county water are mixed, but there are different sources from the county component, including wells in Perryman, the so-called Big Inch line that carries water from the Susquehanna River and Baltimore City and the treatment plant on the Susquehanna in Havre de Grace.

Skinner said there's usually a greater reliance by the county on surface water – the river – in the summer, and there are micro-organisms in the raw water that he said are "not regulated constituents of drinking water standards," which tend to flourish in higher temperatures, 84-85 degrees. The organisms aren't a health threat, but they can affect the "aesthetic quality of the water."

"These are a byproduct of the warm water," Torster said. Letting your water run three to five minutes when you first open the faucet will minimize the odor and taste differences, he added.

Skinner said the main complaint from customers is a "musty" odor. It can be largely eliminated by using a GAC, or granular activated charcoal, filter system at your home or business, which he said is "very effective," but also involves a cost, $45 to $50 for a unit under the sink, plus replacement filters. He has a GAC at his home in Cecil County, which is on treated surface water.

Regardless, he and Torster reiterated the taste/odor problem is not a health issue and should go away as hot summer temperatures start to moderate.

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