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Turnover at Lake Thunderbird affects taste and odor of drinking water

City of Norman water customers may be experiencing changes in the taste and odor of their drinking water due to recent rains and changes in water temperature at Lake Thunderbird. The water is safe to drink but may have a musty taste and odor. 

“We want our customers to know that the water is safe to drink and we are doing all we can to reduce the taste and odor,” said Ken Komiske, Norman’s utilities director. Efforts include temporary treatment aimed at reducing the taste and odor compounds. The treatment, which costs about $2000 per week, will continue through the fall. 

Komiske said the taste and odor changes from the turnover can last from three to five weeks.

The hot, summer temperatures warm the full depth of the lake and in the fall, the cooler nighttime temperatures cause the lake to “turn over.”  This time of year, algae blooms die off and fall to the bottom of the lake while releasing taste and odor compounds. The turnover mixes the lake and stirs the taste and odor compounds into the water. 

The Water Treatment Plant is currently undergoing a $35 million upgrade that includes new ozone treatment process improvements to enhance the water quality, including taste and odor.  Phase II upgrade improvements were approved by Norman voters in January 2015 and include repairs to aging infrastructure, alternative technologies to improve operations and safety, and upgrades for compliance with disinfection regulations in addition to the improvements for water quality. 

Construction on the Phase II upgrades began this summer following pilot projects to determine the most effective treatment, and approvals required by the Department of Environmental Quality.