Nashvillians across Davidson County have detected a musty, earthy taste in their drinking water, but Metro Water Department officials say the water is still safe.
Water department spokeswoman Sonia Harvat said the unusual taste and smell is due to blue-green algae in the Cumberland River, which forms Nashville’s water supply. Because of the recent spike in temperatures, the algae have flourished.
“When the water temperature gets really hot, and there’s not a lot of rainfall, and the river is lower, it allows the blue-green algae to bloom,” Harvat said. “When that algae dies, it releases compounds that give water that earthy, musty taste and odor.”
Harvat said the water department treats the city’s drinking water to reduce this particular smell and taste, but this year the Cumberland is experiencing “historically high” levels of these compounds.
“Different people can sense it at different levels,” she said, adding that some people can’t smell the “dirt-like” odor at all. More people can pick up on the smell, she said, when the water is hot — while taking a shower, for example.
“It’s not dangerous,” she said. “The water is perfectly safe to drink. There are no health effects whatsoever. It just makes it less desirable.”
Harvat said the taste and odor is not concentrated in one area of the county, but added there is some variation from utility to utility.
The only way to reduce the taste and odor, she said, is more rain and lower temperatures.