AUBURN — Mayor Jason Levesque pushed hard Monday for the Twin Cities to begin looking at building a water filtration plant at Lake Auburn, following months of questions from the public over a strange odor and taste in the water.

While the odor caused by a harmless algae has now dissipated, Levesque said Auburn and Lewiston should study whether to build a filtration plant.

Sid Hazelton, superintendent of the Auburn Water District, said Monday during a City Council workshop that building a filtration plant would cost millions and potentially add hundreds of dollars a year to the local water rates.

For years, Auburn has received a waiver of filtration from the state because of historically clean water. That has prevented the cities from having to build a filtration plant, but it also must meet stringent guidelines to continue to be granted the waiver.

Hazelton recapped some of the lake’s previous issues Monday, including algae blooms that have been treated with algaecide. He said a certain type of algae, called Synura, caused the “aesthetic” issues that began late summer and lasted until just recently.

He told the council Monday that a previous study suggested building a filtration plant could cost the two cities $45 million.

However, Levesque said he’d like to see the Auburn Water District board of trustees take up the issue by establishing a working group to look at a possible filtration plant.

“If your car is just about to die, you usually don’t wait until it’s broken down on the side of the road to get a new one,” Levesque said, referring to the filtration waiver. “Businesses are suffering.”

Hazelton said the Synura algae, which many said had an odor and taste similar to cucumber, was an aesthetic issue, but that the water always met drinking water standards.

He said the water district would continue its watershed protection efforts, increase monitoring, algaecide treatment, and look at water treatment alternatives.

Councilor Andrew Titus agreed with the mayor, stating, “We should look into this. If this only happens every couple of years, it’s a problem with visitors that come here.”

He added that if the cities can’t obtain funding in the form of grants and other sources to help pay for a filtration plant, “then we find that out.”

Levesque told Hazelton he was “dismayed” that looking at a potential filtration plant wasn’t included in his list of options.

Hazelton said he was willing to discuss the potential for a filtration system.

“Were not hiding anything, we’re just trying to get the facts out there,” he said.

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