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Bryan Horwath, Forum Communications, Published September 27 2012

Officials say Dickinson's funny-tasting water is safe to drink

DICKINSON, N.D. — It’s been more than two weeks since some Dickinson residents started complaining about a foul odor coming from their tap water, but the issue continues to linger.

In early September, residents noticed that their water tasted and smelled funny. Southwest Water Authority, the body regulating the region’s water supply, explained the phenomenon as a result of Lake Sakakawea, the source of the area’s water supply, “turning over.”

During the fall, the surface water of the lake begins to cool. This causes layers of water to develop, which eventually leads to the top and bottom of the lake actually switching places, according to the SWA.

“First of all, we want everyone to understand that the water they are drinking and bathing in is safe,” SWA CEO Mary Massad said. “The turnover of Lake Sakakawea seems to have been more significant this fall. I also think that some people are simply more sensitive to the odor. The odor should be completely out of the Dickinson water any day now.”

Massad estimated that SWA has received between 20 and 50 complaints about water quality since the problem first popped up nearly three weeks ago. Massad added that her agency provides water for 48,000 people in the region.

West River Community Center facilities manager Matt Mack said he’s had “a couple” of patrons complain of the taste of the drinking water.

“We haven’t had a lot of issues with it here, but I know it has been a topic of conversation around the office,” Mack said. “I’ve noticed an earthy-type smell and taste and I know other people have too. I’ve lived in Dickinson almost my entire life and I don’t ever remember anything like this.”

Mack said his parents, also Dickinson residents, couldn’t recall a similar water quality issue either.

“I’m sure not drinking the water right now — I’m buying bottled water,” Mack said. “I’ve seen a lot of comments about it on Facebook as well. It makes me wonder if there isn’t something going on with (Lake Sakakawea).”

Cary Chavis, who lives just south of the Dickinson city limits, said she noticed the problem for about a week.

“You would have this aftertaste in your mouth like you just drank river water,” Chavis said. “But it went away after about a week. We aren’t noticing it anymore.”

On Tuesday, SWA sent out a second media release about the issue, reiterating that the SWA has “always met or exceeded all of the state and Environmental Protection Agency’s water quality standards.”