Wendy Adamson doesn't care about Mayor R.T. Rybak's appeal to buy less bottled water.
Her tap water stinks -- literally -- and she's not having any of it.
The city of Minneapolis said Thursday that the strange taste and odor in its tap water could last two more weeks while it acts to correct the problem. They also assured water users, hundreds of whom have complained to the city, that there are "absolutely no health risks."
The stinky turn of events comes after the city campaigned hard touting its municipal water over the commercially bottled variety.
"The smell of the water is just way too bad," said the 66-year-old Adamson, who lives in the Seward neighborhood. "I really don't like buying bottled water, but I just went to the store and got some."
City officials say the bad taste is the result of too much organic matter, such as algae and leaves, entering the Mississippi River, the source of the city's drinking water. It's a phenomenon that usually happens after the snow melts in the spring, and they don't know why it's happening now.
City spokesman Matt Laible said the city uses potassium permanganate and sodium permanganate to treat the water for odor and taste year round, but the two treatment plants have been using 20 percent more of the those chemicals since July 3, when people started complaining. The city also increased the use of powder-activated carbon, which absorbs organic matter and makes it easier to filter it out.
According to Laible, the city's 311 service has registered 221 reports and the city water works has been receiving about 80 calls per day. Laible said the water is continuously tested to meet Environmental Protection Agency standards and is safe to drink.
Residents in St. Paul have been free of the funky water, despite the fact that St. Paul also draws its water from the Mississippi.
"We used to have a lot of problems ... every summer," said St. Paul water quality supervisor Jim Bode. "But a couple of years ago, we put in a new granular-activated carbon [GAC] system that improved the aesthetic quality of the water."
The system -- which cost roughly $10 million to build -- filters harmful contaminants and uses highly porous adsorbent material to attract and remove things like ozone, chlorine, fluorides and dissolved organic solutes.
St. Paul also runs the water drawn from the Mississippi through four lakes before it reaches the treatment plant and then goes to consumers in its city and Arden Hills, Roseville, Lauderdale, Falcon Heights, Little Canada, Maplewood, West St. Paul, Lilydale, Mendota, Mendota Heights and Sunfish Lake.
Since 2001, Minneapolis has invested at least $140 million to make its drinking water safer and as a result now has a state-of-the art ultra-filtration water system that provides water not only for Minneapolis, but also for Crystal, Golden Valley, New Hope, parts of Bloomington, Columbia Heights, Hilltop, Edina's Morningside neighborhood and the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
"In defense of Minneapolis, drawing water directly from the river, they're at a higher risk for microbes like cryptosporidium and giardia," so that's where Minneapolis has focused its treatment, Bode said. "We don't have any of those problems, so we've been able to spend our money on things like the GAC."
According to Minneapolis water works Director Shahin Rezania, the city has considered the GAC system and "St. Paul has proven it works," but that money for it may not be available until 2011.
Several readers in Minneapolis and inner-ring suburbs sent e-mails to the Star Tribune about what their noses and tastebuds have been telling them for weeks.
Tom Madsen, who lives near Loring Park, said the smell and taste from his tap forced him to "boil water for a while because I was afraid."
Rybak's 2008 city budget proposed $67 million more for public water facilities and "plans to confidently let the public know about the cleanliness and safety of our water."
This year, the city of Minneapolis has about $200,000 in its budget to promote city water.
Last month, Rybak and other mayors from around the country urged all U.S. cities to stop spending tax money on bottled water and instead drink from the tap.
Rybak and the mayors of 14 other cities cited a host of reasons for why cities should use their own municipal water: Tap water "has more stringent requirements for testing" than bottled water, bottled water costs 1,000 to 10,000 times more than tap water, and plastic water bottles are one of the fastest growing sources of municipal waste.
In April, 14 Minneapolis and St. Paul restaurants pledged to reduce the use of bottled, non-carbonated water and promote city tap water.
Rodrigo Zamith • 612-673-4895 Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482