LEWISTON — Something’s in the water in the Twin Cities; residents have been getting a strange taste and smell from their taps.

Sid Hazelton, Auburn Water and Sewer superintendent, said the tiny, smelly culprit is Synura, a type of freshwater algae blooming in Lake Auburn, the source of Twin Cities public water.

A view in 2009 of the Lewiston-Auburn drinking water treatment and pumping station in Auburn. (Sun Journal file photo)

Hazelton said heavy rains and storms this fall washed an abundance of nutrients into the lake, including phosphorus, algae’s food source. A sudden abundance of phosphorus often results in an algae bloom.

Hazelton said a similar bloom occurred in Lake Auburn in 2013.

“It’s not a new thing for us, but we haven’t seen it emerge since,” he said.

That bloom resolved as the nutrients and light changed with the season.

“Like any algae bloom, none of them last a long time,” he said.  “It all depends on the quantity of nutrients in the water,” he said.

“As the colder temperatures come, and snow begins to fall on the ground, it tends to not promote as much runoff into the lakes. We’re really hoping the changing of the season is going to improve the lake conditions,” he said.

Hazelton said Lewiston Water Division and Auburn Water Division have been consulting with a wide variety of resources, from state agencies to private organizations like Lake Stewards of Maine, to resolve the issue.

In the meantime, Hazelton said the water is perfectly safe to drink and meets all drinking water standards laid out by the Maine Department of Environmental Health.

“We test it everyday. It meets all drinking water standards, it’s simply an aesthetics issue. It’s not a health issue,” he said.

Hazelton said the last bloom lasted for a few weeks, but it’s hard to tell when this one will die down.

“It’s hard to put a number on it. I wish I could tell you it would be next week, but I really don’t know. It all depends on the amount of phosphorus available in the water. If the conditions are right, it could be an extended period,” he said.


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