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Algae growth causing 'musty' smell and taste in Wilmington tap water

Mark Arehart
Delaware Public Media

After complaints of Wilmington’s tap water having a musty taste and smell, City officials say they’ve found the problem – algae.

The City says it received a cluster of complaints about the tap water this week, though Assistant Water Division Director Kelly Slabicki said it’s still safe to drink.

A steady increase in temperatures caused algae to grow more quickly, releasing small particles called metabolites.

“The water treatment actually removes algae, the taste and odor causing metabolites are what are remaining and what are causing these symptoms,” Slabicki said.

While it sounds scary, Slabicki said algae growth like this is common for municipal water systems.

Not unlike a household Brita filter, the City is addressing the problem by adding carbon to the water to help absorb the taste and odor.

Residents who are more sensitive to the change are encouraged to put pitchers of water in the refrigerator to help lessen the musty taste and odor.

No timeline was given on how long the issue could last.

Mark Arehart is an award-winning reporter/producer. Before returning to Delaware, Arehart was a reporter for WKSU and Ideastream Public Media in Northeast Ohio. He previously hosted Morning Edition and covered the arts scene for Delaware Public Media. He has worked for KNKX in Seattle, Kansas Public Radio, and KYUK in Bethel, Alaska.