Columbus pays $723K to tackle foul drinking water

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The city of Columbus has spent $723,000 trying to get rid of the rotten taste and smell of its drinking water, a problem officials said was caused by a toxic algae bloom in a reservoir that serves a half-million water customers.

The city had gotten more than 1,700 complaints about the smell and taste of its drinking water because of the mysterious algae bloom in Hoover Reservoir, The Columbus Dispatch ( reported Monday.

This was the city's first encounter with blue-green algae, which usually is a summertime problem.

"I would hope that we wouldn't have it again next year," said Matt Steele, the city's water supply and treatment coordinator.

Other Ohio cities have been grappling with algae problems for years.

Toledo spent $3 million last summer to keep Lake Erie's toxic algae out of the city's drinking water. And in western Ohio, the city of Celina spends about $450,000 a year on algae problems at Grand Lake St. Marys.

Cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, grow thick in Lake Erie, Grand Lake and other inland lakes each summer, feeding on phosphorus from manure that rain washes off farm fields. The algae can produce liver and nerve toxins that threaten people, pets and wildlife.

State efforts to combat the algae have focused on reducing the flow of phosphorus to streams from farms, which are considered the prime contributors to Lake Erie and Grand Lake St. Marys.

In Columbus, the water in Hoover Reservoir was treated with powdered carbon. City and state tests showed no detectable amounts of toxins.

City officials expect any future odor and toxin issues to be eliminated when a similar, but much bigger, $70 million treatment system is installed in 2016.