Highland News Leader

Do you smell cucumbers, again? Highland deals with water odor issues for the second time in a year

Highland water treatment plant operator Gary Pugh tested the local water supply on Friday.
Highland water treatment plant operator Gary Pugh tested the local water supply on Friday. News Leader

An algal bloom is being blamed for the cucumber-like smell and taste in Highland’s water in recent weeks.

Over the past three weeks, Highland city officials have received a number of water customers calling to report that they were experiencing issues with the smell and taste of the water for the second time in 12 months.

It was a historic moment when the city experienced its first algal bloom in Silver Lake in March 2014.

But city officials still don’t know what caused that algal bloom and why it came back now.

“And we may never know,” Public Works Director Joe Gillespie said.

Although the treated drinking water is safe to consume, the water treatment plant staff has been adding more carbon to help clean the water and its taste over the past few weeks.

“While the complaints have seemed to decrease, the problem still lingers,” Gillespie said.

In the meantime, Gillespie said the city will be continuing with increased daily water testing and observations at the water treatment plant until the synura algae has been successfully treated.

Unlike like last year’s synura algae, which was deep green in color, the current algae is clear.

“We know it’s still in the water, but it’s hard to detect,” Gillespie said.

The cause?

Synura algae grows well, even in low temperatures, in low light and under ice. Synura algae also appears to grow well in cool and rainy weather, Gillespie said.

While the current problem is being resolved, the city will be moving forward with plans to construct a new clarifier this year at the water treatment plant.

The new clarifier will process 3.2 million gallons per day (MGD). The plant currently has two clarifiers, including a 3.2 MGD clairfier that was installed when the plant was expanded in 1993. The other, was built in the 1960s, is capable of processing 900,000 gallons of water per day.

On a typical summer day, when the temperatures stay in the 90s, the plant will treat approximately 2 million gallons of water.