City of Houston: Water is safe to drink, use

By Amy Davis - Reporter/Consumer Expert

HOUSTON - From southwest Houston to Montrose to north of downtown Houstonians are complaining about tap water that tastes and smells foul. We first told you about this problem Monday and now we're pressing the Public Works Department for answers.

Even local restaurants have noticed the change in water quality. At Tacos-a-Go-Go in the Heights they noticed the musty smell and even though the city of Houston says the water is perfectly safe to drink, they're offering customers bottled water instead.

Stephanie Shirley first noticed the smell coming from the water in her Heights home late last week.

"It got to the point where I just couldn't even drink it. It was nauseating. And then I started noticing it in the shower and the washing machine and I thought something's going on," she said.

Clear across town in Westbury, Paul Nylund noticed it too. 

"I noticed that I couldn't see through the glass. It was pretty cloudy. It was pretty weird, so I decided I'm not gonna drink this," Nylund said.

Even water that has been filtered still looks cloudy.

"I was having to use bottled water to make coffee with and to feed my dog for my dog's water," said Nylund.

After four days of increasing complaints from citizens across Houston, the city's Public Works Department finally posted some answers on its website. A spokesman told Local 2 the earthy or musty smell and the taste of dirt is from two naturally occurring compounds: MIB and geosmin, sometimes produced by seasonal algae blooms.

The take-away? The city says they are safe and the water is fine to drink.

"If you went to a restaurant and the food they served you was rancid tasting, but they assured you it was safe, would that be OK? Is it right to be paying for something that is sub-quality?" said Shirley.

No one from public works would talk on camera, but they tell Local 2 the city's responsibility is to meet federal and state standards and it is doing that.

The city says the naturally occurring compounds will naturally diminish with time and weather changes.

Public works says it has no built-in treatment remedies, but refrigerating a pitcher of tap water or using a water filtration system containing carbon are two ways to mitigate the smell and tastes of the compounds.

If the problem persists the city could use portable systems to remove the compounds.

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