EXCLUSIVE: Fixing “foul” tasting water in Opelika expected to cost millions

Health Watch

OPELIKA, Ala. (WRBL) – Opelika Utilities is expecting to spend several million dollars fixing “musty” tasting water for customers. The fix is expensive, and customers can expect slightly higher bills to pay for the new technology.

Hundreds of Opelika water customers have been complaining for years about their water tasting and smelling musty. News 3 spoke with Dan Hilyer, Opelika Utilities’ General Manager about the issue. Hilyer says the water is safe to drink, and the problem will be fixed, but the solution is expensive, and the utility has no choice but to pass the cost along to customers.

The problem begins with water being pulled from Saugahatchee Lake. Most years, the water tastes and smells like dirt from mid-May until the end of June. The foul taste returns in late September and lasts until mid-November.

“It’s caused by compounds produced by algae in the lake,” explained Hilyer.

Hilyer says the problem is naturally occurring and the water is safe to drink. Still, he understands and apologizes to homeowners and businesses who are frustrated with foul taste and smell.

“Trust me, we hear you. We hear you, and we are doing something about this,” said Hilyer.

Hilyer and his team are researching three possible solutions, including reverse osmosis, carbon filtering, and ozone. The technology isn’t cheap, costing between ten to twenty-million dollars to implement with construction lasting 18 to 24 months.

Choosing the correct solution for the specific water is critical and requires time and research. Hilyer expects; eventually, customers will see an extra five to ten dollars added to their monthly bill.

“We have to do our due diligence we get one opportunity to get this right. It’s gonna impact customers in terms of our ratepayers. Any additional expense we have has to be passed on to the ratepayers, so we have to get this right,” Hilyer explained.

Meanwhile, Opelika Utilities asks for customer’s patience and understanding as they work to determine the most cost effective, long term solution to this issue. If you have further questions or concerns, you can call Opelika Utilities 334-705-5500.

Hilyer expects to recommend his plan to the Opelika Utilities Board by October 1st. News 3 will keep you updated as the situation develops.

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