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Temperature-intolerant chemical partially to blame for foul tasting, smelling water

Temperature-intolerant chemical partially to blame for foul tasting, smelling water
Posted at 10:29 PM, Jan 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-27 23:29:20-05

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — When she noticed her tap water was a "yellow/brown color" last Thursday, Annaville resident Victoria Gonzalez posted a message about it on the KRIS 6 News Facebook page.

When we followed up with her about it this Tursday, she said the color of the water wasn't the only problem.

"There was a different taste and smell at the time as well," she said. "But that has also kind of dissipated. But we’re still, of course, sticking with bottled water, because we were pretty concerned with any type of contamination.”

The city says there is no contamination, and Gonzalez's tap water is — and was last week — safe to drink.

The foul taste and odor can partially be blamed on the weather.

The city uses sodium permanganate to remove those maladies from water, but they have to stop using it when temperatures dip below 40-degrees.

It got that cold for 20-straight hours late last week — right around the time Gonzalez noticed the changes in her water.

"At that level of temperature, below 40, then the chemical is not able to be used," Director of Water Utilities Gabriel Ramirez said. "Because it gets chunky, makes the pumps inefficient, and could eventually lead to a mechanical issue.”

Ramirez says water that's not treated with sodium permanganate is still completely disinfected, and that some people won't even notice a change in taste or smell.

That's no comfort to Gonzalez, who worries about what's going to happen to her water on other cold days this winter.

"That is concerning, especially since it’s still January, and we’re expecting another cold front — you know — coming this weekend," she said. "And who knows what’s coming in the next coming weeks."

Ramirez says the city is aware of concerns like Gonzalez's.

He says some methods of removing bad tastes and smells from water that work in cold climates would not work here, because they'd have a bad reaction with organic compounds in Corpus Christi water.

But Ramirez is not giving up the search for an alternative to sodium permanganate that can handle the cold a little better.

"There are other options for taste and odor that we are looking at — technology that’s out there — that could help us out in the future,” he said.