Taste/odor concerns of drinking water in Frankfort

The Division of Water has received numerous comments/complaints regarding the recent taste and odor issues with the drinking water in Frankfort. I have spoken with officials from the Frankfort Plant Board and they too are being inundated with complaints, as well as experiencing the results of the social media attention.

The taste and odor issues are the result of compounds occurring in the source water. The very low flows and high temperatures, as well as excess nutrients in the Kentucky River are resulting in very significant occurrences of algae. The offending compounds are Geosmin and MIB (2-Methylisoborneol). Geosmin is an organic compound with a distinct earthy flavor and aroma produced by certain bacteria, and is responsible for the earthy taste of beetroots. MIB is an organic chemical with a strong odor. Some algae and bacteria produce MIB together with other odorous chemicals such as geosmin. These compounds produce a musty or earthy odor that can be quite strong if an algal bloom is present. These chemicals can be smelled at very low levels, in the parts-per-trillion range (ppt range), and are responsible for many “taste and odor” issues in drinking water treatment and distribution.

There is no public health issue associated with the occurrence of these compounds in drinking water. This condition is strictly an aesthetics (taste and odor) issue, and, as such, is not a non-compliant condition.

Contrary to reports on some social media outlets, these taste and odor issues are not the result of black mold occurring in the distribution system.

The taste and odors can be effectively removed by carbon filters such as a Brita or a standard refrigerator filter.

Frankfort Plant Board is working diligently, tweaking their treatment process to optimize the removal and neutralization of these compounds, including feeding activated carbon in the treatment process.

Increased flows in the Kentucky River will help ameliorate the issues. We are anticipating that at least one of the Corps projects will begin releasing water soon to get to winter pool which could improve flow through rates in the downstream pools. The flow at Lock and Dam #7 has been below the crest and the Kentucky River Authority is working with a power producer to address that issue.

We need rain, cooler weather, less sunlight, and greater flow in the river.

Peter T. Goodmann, Director of the Division of Water