Higher than usual algae content in Schuylkill leads to 'musty' tap water taste

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Have you noticed a funny taste to your tap water lately? You're not imagining it.

Higher than usual levels of algae in the Schuylkill River have given water in Southeastern Pennsylvania a flavor that might charitably be called "earthy." But officials maintain it's perfectly harmless.

The Department of Environmental Protection said public water systems all along the Schuylkill have been affected. Aqua's vice president for water quality, Chris Crockett, said excess algae is a normal occurrence. In this case, he cited an algae bloom in Blue Marsh Lake near Reading.

"They released a lot of water from the lake which contained a slug of this dead algae, which then releases a harmless chemical which makes water taste funny, earthy, musty," he explained. "It's an off taste that people don't like."

Philadelphia Water Department spokesman Brian Rademaekers said the river's been warm and moving slowly, making the algae more noticeable. However, he stressed not to worry.

"Outside of chlorine," he said, "it's one of the most common taste note complaints that water systems get worldwide."

Rademaekers said the department added more filtration. Both he and Crockett said the algae appears to have moved past us, and that the rain raised the river temperature and flow.

However, if you've been away and just come back, they advised letting the water run to ensure the algae has flushed out of your pipes. Crockett suggested chilling water and adding a slice of lemon helps too.

"When you get algae lemons," he said, "you make algae lemonade."