No Health Hazard from Tap Water with 'Smoky' Taste, Odor

Burnt-Wood Taste, Smell of Water Due to Storm Runoff into Lake Silverwood from Mountain Areas Recently Scorched by Wildfires

Consumers in portions of four Southern California counties may currently or soon notice a smoky taste and odor in their tap water, but it is an aesthetic problem and not a health hazard, according to water quality experts.

Officials at the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California said the burnt-wood taste and odor is affecting tap water in Los Angeles County and could potentially reach areas in western Riverside, western San Bernardino and Orange counties.

Jill T. Wicke, Metropolitan's manager of water system operations, said the taste-and-odor problem stems from the recent storm runoff into Lake Silverwood in the San Bernardino Mountains from areas burned in the wildfires earlier this fall.

"Metropolitan receives a major portion of its water through the east branch of the State Water Project, which includes Lake Silverwood, and we are working with the state Department of Water Resources -- which owns and operates the state system -- and other local, state and federal agencies to address the problem," Wicke said.

"Consumers, however, can be assured that the taste-and-odor issues they may be experiencing in their tap water do not pose any health risks," she said.

Metropolitan's F.E. Weymouth Filtration Plant in La Verne, which receives and treats state supplies imported from Lake Silverwood, has been able to address the high turbidity of the lake's water and has reduced, but has not yet eliminated the taste and odor problem, Wicke said. The Weymouth plant treats water supplied to up to 5 million people in Los Angeles County.

To address the problem, Metropolitan is increasing its blend of Colorado River water at the Weymouth plant. The taste-and-odor problem, however, may persist for some time depending on storms that are forecasted for next week, Wicke said.

Wicke cautioned that the turbidity and taste-and-odor issues also may eventually reach the district treatments plants in Orange and Riverside counties. The impacts may vary from region to region, as local agencies blend imported Metropolitan water with local supplies.

Metropolitan member public agencies that may be impacted by the problem include the cities of Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, Glendale, Burbank and Pasadena; Central Basin Municipal Water District; Foothill Municipal Water District; Upper San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District; Three Valleys Municipal Water District; the Municipal Water District of Orange County; and Eastern and Western municipal water districts in west Riverside County.

Consumers interested in receiving additional information about the quality of Metropolitan's drinking water may call 800-422-9426 or visit MWD's Web site,, for the district's annual water quality report and other related materials.

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is a cooperative of 26 cities and water agencies serving 18 million people in six counties. The district imports water from the Colorado River and Northern California to supplement local supplies, and helps its members to develop increased water conservation, recycling, storage and other water-management programs.

Metropolitan Water District of Southern California

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