The Cambrian

Cambrians frown at water’s funny taste

Some Cambrians are wondering why their water from the tap tastes strange, according to recent Facebook postings.

Local water experts say occasional fishy smells or the taste of chlorine in Cambria’s tap water should pose no health hazards, unless someone is extremely sensitive to chlorine.

According to Justin Smith, supervisor for Cambria Community Services District’s water department, the cause is twofold: The department’s recent heavy use of Santa Rosa Creek water and blooms of algae affecting state water that’s used in Morro Bay to process and rinse out exchange tanks for water-softening treatment systems.

“Due to the drought, we have had to rely heavily on the Santa Rosa Creek wells,” Smith wrote in an email interview.” The district’s water-production charts show “the last time we have ever used the Santa Rosa as much as we have in the last two years was 2008 and further back to 1990 and 1988” all of which “were major drought years.”

He said water being pumped from Santa Rosa creek “is a lot harder (having more total dissolved solids) than the water from San Simeon creek.”

The wells on Santa Rosa creek “are also under the influence of surface water due to their proximity to the Santa Rosa Creek — less than 150 feet” away, Smith said. “This means that we are required by the (state) Department of Drinking Water to have a filtration system and meet a certain chlorine residual on water” from those wells.

He said the district’s emergency water-supply project “has nothing to do” with the taste-and-odor problems.

However, Smith also said, some “taste and odor issues were caused by Culligan water softeners. They had an issue where they were cleaning and filling the tanks in Morro Bay, which is having taste and odor problems from the algae blooms affecting the state water up and down the coast.”

Rob Kitzman of Culligan said any problems linked to the quality of state water and the seasonal bloom of algae should have been solved by the end of this month. By then, he said, the city is supposed to switch to its own local water supply, running that water run through Morro Bay’s desalination plant.

Culligan doesn’t deliver full tanks of water to customers using its exchange-tank system. Instead, Kitzman said, the tanks are filled with a filter medium that screens out the higher-than-average hardness that has been a hallmark of Cambria water for decades.

When Culligan employees exchange tanks with a customer, the “exhausted” tank is brought to the company’s Morro Bay facility to be processed, which involves flushing it with local water. Some of that water, perhaps a gallon or so, remains in the tank. But, Kitzman explained, when that tank is hooked up at the customer’s connection, Cambria water flows through the tank, flushing out all of the remaining Morro Bay water.