Have Martian invaders been messing around with McMinnville’s water?
Not really, McMinnville’s chief water officer laughs.
No space aliens have been spotted in the area, but natural biological activity has put a bad taste in the mouths of many who like to drink water direct from the tap.
Ricky Morton, McMinnville Water & Wastewater Department director, explained recently that occasional algae blooms in spots along the Barren Fork River have contributed to the disagreeable flavor and odor of the utility’s water.
Another factor was the heavy rainfall earlier this month that washed organic matter off the ground and into streams and creeks feeding the Barren Fork, the primary source of raw water going into the purification systems operated by the city facilities on Bell Street.
A third factor can be temperature inversions in large open bodies of water, he observed. That’s where a substantial temperature difference between water at the surface and the bottom produces convection currents, pushing the water at the river’s depths to the top.
“Little algae blooms (and) organics like fallen leaves” are natural occurrences that can degrade water taste, Morton explained.
But none of that affects the safety of the water, which is constantly monitored and tested in the laboratory at the treatment plants, Morton emphasized. All the laboratory processes, equipment and technicians are certified by Tennessee state government and the water piped to McMinnville homes and businesses is treated in compliance with strict scientific standards, he noted.
Further rainfall could give the Barren Fork the flush it needs to push the objectional taste and odor downstream, Morton said.