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“It’s harmless and naturally occurring and not uncommon to find on the surface of the water but it’s very easy to detect by the human nose,” said Jagorinec.
Even the slightest uptick in the presence of geosmin, which is now at 12 parts per trillion in the Bow River reservoir, is quickly noticeable, he said.
For perspective, he said that quantity is akin to the width of one dime in a rope extending 25 times around the earth’s diameter.
The level of geosmin, which is produced from aquatic plants and sediments, spiked to tasteable levels about a month ago due to unseasonably warm and dry weather conditions.
“River levels have been low as well and that tends to increase that,” said Jagorinec, adding the city’s been receiving about five complaints a day about the musty-tasting water.
“It’s unusual — we’re accustomed to high-quality, tasteless water.”
He said a similar phenomenon occurred in Calgary about a decade ago but was so brief, it wasn’t as noticeable.
That flavour should soon return to normal as the weather cools towards winter conditions, as expected in the coming days, he said.
In the meantime, there is nothing city officials can do to banish the higher levels of geosmin, said Jagorinec.
But those who don’t want to wait until geosmin naturally subsides can use activated charcoal water filters to absorb the unusual flavour, he said.
For Stewart in Royal Oak, it’s just one more headache during a time of pandemic.
“I’m wondering how many people are saying ‘so now we have to buy a filter,’ ” she said.
on Twitter: @BillKaufmannjrn