The test results have come back within state guidelines.
On Feb. 27, Eagle Mountain City switched the City’s water source from Well #1 to Well #5, causing some residents to notice a difference in the scent and flavor profiles of their tap water. Eagle Mountain City utilizes several wells throughout the year as maintenance and other needs arise.
According to Mack Straw, Public Utilities manager for Eagle Mountain City, Well #5 was turned on so crews could perform maintenance on Well #1 — the City’s usual water source during the winter months. The difference in tap water smell and taste results from differing levels of Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) between the two wells.
“Okay I knew I wasn’t going crazy,” said resident Kirsten Anderson when the City issued a statement about the water. “I told my roommate about it a week ago. It tastes so NASTY now. I won’t drink the tap water unless I put some kind of flavoring in it. Might go to bottled water at this point. I don’t trust that it’s actually safe. Tastes really off.”
According to Straw, as water runs through the aquifer, it will pull minerals along with it. TDS is determined by measuring the amount of dissolved minerals in the water.
“[The water] is still healthy, still meets the parameters of safe drinking water, there’s no high levels of anything toxic,” says Straw. “[But] it does change the profile of the taste and smell in some situations.”
Eagle Mountain City tested Well #5 again on March 8, following public concerns about the safety of the drinking water.
The tests returned a TDS result of 948 ppm (parts per million).
While the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends a primary standard of less than 1,000 ppm for drinking water, primary drinking water standards vary from state to state.
“EPA is not the end all, be all. That’s what they recommend,” says Straw. “The state can set their own and that’s why it’s the ‘primary.’ And they’ve deemed it 2,000.”
The primary standard for the state of Utah is 2,000 ppm with a secondary standard of 500 ppm.
“The primary standard is designed to be protective of public health while the non-enforceable secondary standard is in place as a guideline for levels of TDS that may cause aesthetic effects,” according to the Utah Division of Drinking Water.
Although Well #5 has the capacity to supply the entire community during winter, City Administrator Paul Jerome says the City recently turned on Well #3 to blend with the water from Well #5 and bring down the overall amount of TDS.
The cost to turn on a City well is around $5,000 and, according to Jerome, is not a decision the City takes lightly.
“That’s why we try to do it in the most efficient manner possible by just turning on Well #5 because it could feed the whole city,” says Jerome.
Since Well #5 was turned on, some residents have feared that the level of TDS in the water may make them sick. Straw says that there is “no chance” this is the case.
According to Straw, the City also performs tests for bacterial presence in the water, and the most recent test for Well #5 was negative for harmful bacteria, namely coliform and E coli.
Some residents may have noticed a chlorine-like smell in their tap water. “Yes, what is going on with the water?” asked resident Kaitlyn Brouwer on Facebook. “Someone in my neighborhood tested the tap water TDS and it was at 835 (way higher than normal) and tap was only a hundred or so lower. They also said they found high amounts of chlorine.”
However, Straw says that a chlorine-like smell in the water is a good sign. Free chlorine in the water attacks any dangerous bacteria that may be living in the water.
“If we didn’t have that,” Straw says, “that’s when we would start to be concerned, because that tells us something is consuming that free chlorine.”
According to Straw and Jerome, the Central Utah Water Conservancy District’s sources will be back online on March 20th. Maintenance is anticipated to be completed on Well #1 by mid-April.
Additionally, Straw says that the City will be installing TDS analyzers into each of the City’s wells that will provide real-time readings.
“That’s not required by the state. We’re doing this to make sure residents have real-time data that can be shared on request,” Straw says.
In the summer months when all wells are operating, Straw says he anticipates the TDS level to be around the 600 ppm range.
Eagle Mountain City currently has six operational wells with one under construction and another currently out for bid.