Opelika water fix could cost millions of dollars

Opelika residents report tap water issues

OPELIKA, Ala. (WSFA) - For the past couple of weeks Auburn and Opelika residents have noticed odd smelling and tasting water coming from their taps.

“It doesn’t taste like water. It tastes like dirt. When you turn the tap on it comes out rusty,” explained Opelika resident, Dwayne Jones.

The problem comes from seasonal algae blooms in Saugahatchee Lake, which is Opelika’s water source. Since Auburn supplements their water supply with Opelika water, its a widespread, yearly problem.

“It’s not anything unusual for a surface water plant to have algae blooms in their sources, and its something that they’re trying to deal with," said Auburn Water Resource Management Director, Eric Carson. "Right now we’re trying to produce as much of our own water as we can.”

Meanwhile, Opelika Utilities is looking for a solution, but it could be costly.

“Its very very difficult to remove,” says Opelika Utilities General Manager, Dan Hilyer. “We don’t have the technology here at this plant to remove it at this point in time, but we are working toward that. These technology are very, very expensive. None of them are cheap. We’re looking at reverse osmosis. We’re looking at granule activated carbon filters and we’re looking at ozone.”

The fix could cost anywhere between $10-20 million, and that means slightly higher bills for customers.

“Anywhere from $5 to $10 a month more,” Hilyer estimated.

Opelika Utilities officials say that because the solution will be so expensive, it could be another year before a new treatment system is installed.

Hilyer says that until they have this problem resolved, an at home filter could help get rid of some of the unpleasant odor and taste, but even without a filter, the water is safe to drink.

“You don’t have to worry about that. Its an aesthetic issue not a health issue,” he said.

Hilyer added that a recent test shows that the algae is gone for now but will likely come back in the fall.

Copyright 2019 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.