Residents upset about water quality in Palestine – one said it smells like rotten eggs – will just have to hold their noses and swallow. City officials say the water is safe to drink.
“There is nothing wrong with the water besides the smell and taste,” Public Works Director Tim Perry told the Herald-Press on Wednesday.
The tap water tastes and smells bad, officials say, due to Geosmin,a naturally occurring organic compound produced by bacteria in the soil and algae in surface water. The chemical smells like freshly turned soil, or rain, mixing with dry earth. It occurs twice a year.
“The last few days, it has really gotten bad,” said resident Ester Rorig. “It's not going to get any better, unless they do something.”
How long Geosmin last varies from year to year, Perry said. He said getting rid of the organic compound is costly.
Rorig, who worked for the city's water and waste water department as a technician, lives on Park Avenue. She is one of numerous residents upset with the taste and smell of their tap water.
She has lived in Palestine for nine years and thinks part of the problem rests with the old water plant that needs to be replaced.
Rorig said Palestine could eventually have water problems similar to those in Flint, Michigan.
Flint's water crisis began in 2014, when drinking water for the community was changed to the Flint River. Insufficient water treatment resulted in more than 100,000 residents being exposed to high levels of lead in the drinking water.
Water quality should take precedent over putting $40,000 worth of flowers in parks, Rorig said, or having a three-week, instead of a one-week, Dogwood Trails Festival.
Palestine officials need to realize the city is not a tourist destination, she said, and stop frivolous spending, until water quality improves.
She said the water smells like rotten eggs and looks dirty. Because her residence is close to the water plant, Rorig said, her water is likely better than those on the other end of the city.
“People don't drink the water because it tastes bad,” Rorig said.
She also questioned the city's efforts to inform residents about a 5 percent increase in water rates last year.
“If (the rate increase) is put in the water bills, everyone will see it,” she said. “Something needs to be done. I live here. I pay for this water, and I have to buy bottled water.”
Rorig said the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has cited the city numerous times for noncompliance issues.
The TCEQ is compiling a list of citations, or noncompliance issues, over the last two years for the Herald-Press, but said it could take a few days to produce the report.
In October 2016, TCEQ made a site visit to Palestine for the city's failure to protect the water system from actual or potential contamination.
Rorig said she has talked to the city about water quality, but nothing changes.
“I have put up with this for nine years, I am fed up,” Rorig said. “The water could cause people to get sick.”