Utilities Superintendent Don Weingart said the water department is working to control a taste problem which recently resurfaced due to blue-green algae, but it will take a little bit of time.
"We would like to keep it under control. We drink the same water as everybody else," he said.
Weingart said there was a problem with the algae five to six weeks ago, resulting in 15 to 20 calls from customers complaining about the taste of their drinking water. The department received a couple more calls this week.
Salem's water comes from surface water drawn from Cold Run Creek, Salem East Cold Run Reservoir, Spring Valley Reservoir and from three ground water wells. He explained that high sunlight and low rain levels cause blue-green algae to grow naturally.
The department uses potassium permanganate, a chemical oxidizing agent, to control taste and odors in drinking water, but with the increased drought conditions, the algae grew and the chemical oxidizes any organics it comes into contact with, in this case breaking open the cells of the algae and causing a release of compounds with an earthy smell and musty taste.
Weingart said it can be "very obnoxious" and that some people are more sensitive to the taste, noting that not all people can detect it.
They've been using activated carbon in an effort to control the taste and now are waiting on a shipment of a more active carbon that they can use to combat the problem.
He said the department had not had the problem for quite some time, but it hit this year.
Mary Ann Greier can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org