AUBURN — Drinking water in the Twin Cities is safe despite a peculiar cucumber smell caused by a golden-brown algae bloom, according to water quality officials.
John Storer, superintendent of the Auburn Water District, said the smell is caused an algae bloom in Lake Auburn, a cold water strain of the algae synura.
The drinking water is safe, Storer said.
"The algae is dead, through the disinfection process," he said. "It's not going to reproduce or be a health issue. But the mere presence of it in the water is contributing to that detectable vegetable type of smell. There is nothing we can do to remove it from the water."
Storer said the smell has been reported by water customers in Lewiston and Auburn, some comparing the smell to raw cucumbers and others to pumpkins. It's been reported in both cities, but it's been more prevalent in Auburn.
Storer said he thinks the algae bloom peaked on Wednesday and he expects it will dissipate over the weekend.
Water District officials will be at the Court Street office in Auburn on Saturday, Sunday and Monday with jugs of bottled water for customers who can't stand the smell, Storer said.
"We don't have a huge supply, but we thought it would a good-faith effort to those with a sensitivity," he said.
Storer said the current bloom is different than the blue-green algae bloom responsible for killing fish in the lake in the summer of 2012. The Lake Auburn Watershed Protection Commission kicked off a water quality monitoring program at the lake last summer, and those algae blooms have not returned.
But Storer said the lake is still high in phosphorous from 2012's heavy rains and phosphorous encourages algae to grow.
"We don't expect it to last for very long, but it indicates how important it is to keep an eye on Lake Auburn," he said. "We have to try to curb any additional nutrients from getting into the lake."