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Gainesville official: Water safe despite ‘earthy’ taste, smell

The head of the Gainesville Water Resources Department said Thursday that the city’s drinking water is safe and clean despite its unusual taste and smell brought about by a seasonal and natural event at Lake Lanier.

Water Resources Director Linda MacGregor said “lake turnover” — a natural event that happens once or twice each year — usually goes unnoticed by water customers, but not so this year. She said the department has received some calls about it.

MacGregor said that when temperatures drop in the fall, the cooler surface water begins to settle to the bottom, which causes the water to turn over or mix from top to bottom. When this happens, compounds rise from the bottom of the lake to the top, which sometimes leads to taste and odor problems.

Although the department is adjusting to the lake turnover by adding chemicals to minimize the impact, MacGregor said time is the best cure to rid the drinking water of the “earthy” smell and taste.

“For some reason, this year has been a bigger problem than other years,” MacGregor said. “It’s usually not this bad. It’s hard to predict  how long it will last, but the water is safe and clean.”

To reassure water customers, Water Resources personnel posted an explanation of lake turnover on its Facebook page, along with a link from National Geographic that also covers the phenomenon at lakes throughout the country.

“We continue to do everything within our power to minimize these impacts,” the Facebook post read. “We anticipate that the temperatures will stabilize soon and our water to return to normal.”

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