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Algae blooms, new water source blamed for bad-tasting water

Original post made on Sep 28, 2015

Some San Ramon Valley residents may have noticed a strange taste or bad smell in their water in recent weeks.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, September 28, 2015, 2:42 PM

Comments (32)

Posted by Derek
a resident of Danville
on Sep 28, 2015 at 6:23 pm

Since we moved here nine-plus years ago, we never had the need for a faucet filter until a couple weeks ago. I imagine most of them won't eliminate the bad taste, but maybe a handful of the really fine ones might. If anyone has a filter that does take out the icky taste, please let us all know what brand & model you own.
I hate buying bottled water for a number of reasons. Lemon juice mitigates the moldy taste somewhat, but not completely.

Posted by Alchemist
a resident of Danville
on Sep 28, 2015 at 8:30 pm

The musty, earthy taste in ebmud water is due to MIB, 2-methlyisoborneol, a toxic substance produced by certain algae. EBMUD should be transparent with its customers and tell it the way it is. Their statement that the water is safe to drink is debatable.

Posted by Terri
a resident of Alamo
on Sep 29, 2015 at 6:41 am

Has anyone had it tested?

Posted by Arlene
a resident of San Ramon
on Sep 29, 2015 at 7:46 am

I also noticed the water tasting foul and smelling moldy a couple weeks, and since I consume a lot of water daily, I have to use it in a carbon filtered water bottle to be able to drink it! It seems to work, so if the other methods of removing the taste don't work, you can try using a filtered water bottle. I use the "Bobble" brand water bottle and each filter lasts 300 bottles of water, and there are many different brands that do the same.

Posted by Herman Glates
a resident of Danville
on Sep 29, 2015 at 7:47 am

Herman Glates is a registered user.

I got a Brita water filter at Walgreens for $20 bucks. It tastes fine.

It's a water pitcher with a filter on top. You fill it straight from the tap.

Here’s what it looks like:

Web Link

Posted by Carol
a resident of San Ramon
on Sep 29, 2015 at 8:13 am

Our water has tasted like dirt for a couple of weeks now and I recognized it as a probable algae bloom similar to EBMUD-reported occurrences in the past. However, unlike in the past, the taste is so bad that I'll be turning to bottled water. I'm also very concerned about the possibility of toxic byproducts as mentioned in an earlier post in this forum and would like EBMUD to provide more data proving that the water is indeed, safe to drink. Until that time, I'll be drinking bottled water for that reason, too.

Posted by Pedal Power
a resident of Danville
on Sep 29, 2015 at 8:16 am

We have used one of those Brita filter jugs on and off (as required) for years. One thing, Brita put a bar across the bottom of the jug's filter tube, in an attempt to force you to use their filters by stopping other brands from fitting. Once this was cut off, a different brand worked just fine. We are back on Brita filters, for now, and I don't recall the alternative, otherwise I'd post it.fnU3d

Posted by Member
a resident of Danville
on Sep 29, 2015 at 8:29 am

I have had some success masking the taste by putting slices of lemon or mint in a pitcher of tap water.

Posted by BP
a resident of Danville
on Sep 29, 2015 at 9:13 am

I have Multipure Under Sink Water Filter System with dedicated faucet for couple of years. Works fine. I did not notice any changes in water quality. Probably filter eliminates most of the impurities. But it cost $430 plus installation or DIY and solid carbon block water filter cartridge replacement $70 once a year.

Posted by cyclist2
a resident of Danville
on Sep 29, 2015 at 9:55 am

I installed a Filtrete (3M) under the sink filter from Amazon and a nice stainless steel gooseneck faucet from Home Depot. If you can't do it yourself, any handyman can do it. I also feed my refrigerator from this filter and removed the overpriced filter from the refrigerator.

Posted by Derek
a resident of Danville
on Sep 29, 2015 at 2:25 pm

Thanks for all the recommendations. I was guessing (before trying any) that the more coarse filter varieties would not cut it, based on marginal water I've had to filter on backpack trips. Guess I'm off to filter-shop!

(and good question Terri - we all need to look into whether it could be harmful. Whether or not Alchemist is correct, this is a new, special kind of funky water)

Posted by Terri
a resident of Alamo
on Sep 29, 2015 at 3:06 pm

I ask about testing as my husband was diagnosed with lead poisoning about 2 years ago and then recently with IBS and other digestive dilemmas. We both *were* drinking tap water - you wonder if someone is having all of us drink the "kool aide"? I would love to do an independent water test!

Posted by Dr. Sedona
a resident of Danville
on Sep 29, 2015 at 7:30 pm

We're all probably smelling a few compounds that are what I call "real stinkers." For example, Alchemist refers to "MIB". This and another few other materials are very stinky (will post about that later) compounds that, in fact, are not very toxic, and are well known to EPA and other agencies responsible for the quality of drinking water in the country. "MIB" happens to be very detectable to the human nose - and that's why it (at some concentration) is probably in many products you have in your home - anything that has a fragrance oil - and probably many things that are actually called "natural" or "naturally derived". We are all noticing it in the water right now because of the drought and its effects on the temperature of the water sources EBMUD uses. More algae (they are not all evil and not all toxic) mean more of this real "stinker" gets into more of the water (even after the algae are dead and completely removed from the water supply - which is what EBMUD must do or the EPA would shut them down in 5 minutes) means our water will stink more than what we would prefer - but this doesn't mean the water is unsafe. That's a huge difference !!
I'll post some links soon about this stinker and some others - but let's stay calm and realize that many, many communities across the country deal with the appearance of this compound (and a few others) regularly every year. There are many, many scholarly papers on how to detect this material (and others) that stink - and what it might take (with changes in the engineering of the local water delivery systems) and what it might cost to reduce or eliminate these "stinkers".
How to fix your stinky water short-term? You could use a Brita filter of other similar system that has some carbon in it - this will pull out the MIB - and many other things which are actually more nasty, and which actually stink less. Of course, the expensive "RO" systems will work, too.
I predict that when it finally starts to rain, and when the weather cools, all of us will notice a difference within about 3 - 5 days. I'll look up some more stuff and post it if the community wants to hear about it.
Let's not get too upset - there are places in the US with perfectly safe water that will stink every July to August. There is no "lack of transparency" or "conspiracy" to worry about. The engineering to remove traces of "MIB" when it does appear could be really expensive - and guess who will pay for that- even if we could convince EBMUD that "all" of us really wanted it.
Bottom line - the "stink" of MIB is real - and it will go away very soon - as soon as we get some of our winter rains.

Posted by Terri
a resident of Alamo
on Sep 29, 2015 at 7:42 pm

I am far from an alarmist but I am a realist especially when others we know have similar issues. I am kidding of course about the "kool aide" - just an over exaggeration of my thoughts for sure. But the water is really gross to the taste as well as the olfactories! We are using a filter now too and it sure helps!

Posted by LlNP
a resident of Danville
on Sep 29, 2015 at 8:17 pm

I appreciate the technical information provided by Dr. Sedona. Medically, "Stinky" does not mean toxic nor an immediate medical concern for our community. Please provide EPA links to review.

Posted by jane
a resident of another community
on Sep 29, 2015 at 9:10 pm

Water tastes and smells like mold/mildew. Brita filter didn't remove the bad taste. Now buying bottled water.

Posted by Dr. Sedona
a resident of Danville
on Sep 30, 2015 at 8:06 am

Some links to info about MIB and geosmin -
Web Link

The EPA site makes the point that the MIB and geosmin are not toxic, but a nuisance. They may or may not be around in blooms of toxic algae.

Web Link

These compounds can be detected by humans at levels of parts per trillion. Those kinds of numbers are hard to understand - one person in the whole US would be about 1 part per 300 million or about 3 parts per billion (rounding). But 3 parts per trillion would be one thousand times less !

Posted by Jillian
a resident of Blackhawk
on Sep 30, 2015 at 3:02 pm

This water is literally unpalatable, and intolerable. Even with the Brita, I can still detect the elements that are now present, and It cannot be stomached. In the shower, I have all I can do from throwing up.

When are we going to be able to have OUR EBMUD Water back, and why are we having to be exposed to these ghastly prices if we have this intolerable water? Not acceptable!

Please explain, and Lower your pricing if you are going to stick us with this water plan, and PLEASE CHANGE YOUR NAME> This does not reflect the water that we have been accustomed to for all these years. New York and this area has had the best water in the Country, and now only New York does. I guess it is time to move away for me.

Posted by Connie
a resident of Danville
on Sep 30, 2015 at 3:57 pm

I have bragged about our wonderful drinking water in this San Ramon Valley for many years. My question is why EBMUD changed our water source. As a waterholic I am sick about the dirt taste and smell of the water lately. Even the coffee tastes like dirt. I don't always believe the experts when they say it is perfectly harmless to our bodies. Will someone please test this water and report the results on this site?

Posted by PilotNP
a resident of Danville
on Sep 30, 2015 at 4:04 pm

Appreciate the EPA web links provided by Dr. Sedona to share with my patients who have questions about the "stink" water. It is important our Community stays involved in issues that involve the environment, safety, and health concerns.

Posted by Dr. Sedona
a resident of Danville
on Sep 30, 2015 at 4:13 pm

Here's a link showing the quality of EBMUD. The water stinks now because of the need to use river water.
Web Link

Dismal precipitation in 2014 meant EBMUD reservoirs did
not refill back to normal levels. EBMUD used supplemental
water supplies from the Sacramento River for the first time.
In early summer, 23,000 acre-feet of Sacramento River
water was diverted into Upper San Leandro and San Pablo
reservoirs in the East Bay — about a month’s supply. A halfbillion
dollar investment by ratepayers for dry-year
infrastructure combined with solid efforts by customers to
conserve precious water helped us weather one of the
driest years in California history. Drought conditions have
worsened. Visit for the latest news.

Posted by PilotNP
a resident of Danville
on Sep 30, 2015 at 5:13 pm

As a Healthcare Provider, I respect that every individual has a right to be concerned what they consume in their body and every individual is unique. If after the technical information provided, you still have concerns, I recommend using Universal travel precautions. This would include using bottled water for drinking and cooking and brushing your teeth. Also, try not to swallow water during a shower or children swallowing water during a bath. Be sure all bottled water is securely sealed. I would follow these simple guidelines until you receive further information that makes you more comfortable and you no longer are concerned about the water you are consuming. If you have further or specific questions, I would direct them to EBBMUD. I hope this helps.

Posted by Herman Glates
a resident of Danville
on Oct 1, 2015 at 8:09 am

Herman Glates is a registered user.

And after all that, if you still have concerns, I recommend you contact the Centers for Disease Control and demand that they conduct a toxicological study of your tap water.

And make them test the water in New York too. That way, you can prove once and for all that New York is the best.

Posted by Dr. Chlorine
a resident of Diablo
on Oct 1, 2015 at 8:40 am

People's responses to smells varies wildly. For example my wife gags and finds half the house uninhabitable if I put a bit of bleach down the loo, (ah, that lovely smell of cleanliness). She is also way more sensitive to biologically-based smells like marginal milk. But you don't have to watch too many episodes of"Naked and Afraid" to realize that murky water is better than none and that good taste does not necessarily mean safe. So I am mainly thankful to have safe water still coming out of our taps and, if we need to filter it or add flavoring to make it palatable, so be it.

Posted by T Christi
a resident of Alamo
on Oct 1, 2015 at 8:45 am

I've been boiling water morning and night and letting it cool before keeping it in several pitchers. This process completely removes the dirt like smell and taste. My daughter says the water coming out of the drinking fountains at SRV is particularly bad right now. She started taking a large water bottle with the cooled boiled water and says it is "delicious". It must be boiled, not just heated. Takes time but completely worth it and gives life back to the kettle in your kitchen.

Posted by Kathy
a resident of San Ramon
on Oct 3, 2015 at 1:20 pm

We bought Target's Brita water pitcher when the last smelly episode happened. Worked just fine and still does. I have notice that neither coffee nir ice cubes made with regular tap water taste off. I would also like to urge everyone to get a water filter jog or Pur type filter on their faucet. PLEASE DO NOT START BUYING BOTTLED WATER: you are only polluting the environment in a very bad way. We even use a gallon container in our bathroom that we re-fill with filtered water. C'mon, people! Think of your environment! Btw, I have used tap water for making coffee and ice cubes and have not sensed the algae taste?

Posted by PilotNP
a resident of Danville
on Oct 6, 2015 at 7:13 pm

To protect our environment if you desire not to use bottled water in the interim, due to the current offensive taste and odor, water can safely be disinfected through the boiling process.

The easiest way to purify water is by keeping it at a rolling boil for 10 minutes to kill any disease-causing bacteria. The taste can be further enhanced with aeration or vigorously shaking the water container once cooled.
This method should be sufficient for destruction of the pertinent microorganisms, if any at all exist.

Here are a few websites to further educate your knowledge on drinking water issues:

The CDC also has information.

Posted by spongebob rectangular pants
a resident of Danville
on Oct 9, 2015 at 1:09 pm

Web Link

There are no federal standards for these cyanotoxins. It's really despicable that we have this pondlike drinking water. I definitely don't trust it to be safe. According to the above site, boiling doesn't help. To me, the water is still nasty post filtering. I have to waste money on bottled. At least the Kirkland comes from another state. The water company should pull from the nice cool water source they used to use that now is allocated to salmon. So we get the shit water.


Posted by Derek
a resident of Danville
on Oct 9, 2015 at 1:19 pm

I've just been refilling one gallon jugs at the machine in front of Lucky's Spongebob, and it tastes fine. So far anyway. Until a short time ago, I could never understand why anybody bothered filling water jugs there.

Posted by spongebob rectangular pants
a resident of Danville
on Oct 9, 2015 at 1:49 pm

Oh good. Maybe I'll try that... Where does it come from? Thsnks.

Posted by Pedal Power
a resident of Danville
on Oct 14, 2015 at 9:51 pm

We use a jug type filter for much of our drinking water, and to refill water bottles, but have also been trying this mental spin with some success:

Imagine you are hiking in a wilderness area, are thirsty and have run out of water. You come across a little spring which looks clear and inviting but you don't want to risk drinking it, without boiling, until you notice a brass plaque, half hidden by some shrubbery, proclaiming that this spring water is safe to drink. You take a sip and, apart from an earthy taste, it is cool and clear.

Posted by Derek
a resident of Danville
on Oct 15, 2015 at 5:06 pm


I'm pretty sure it is tap water, but run through larger and better filters than what we have easy access to. Reverse osmosis seems unlikely for the volume that they are selling.

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