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Central Coast News

Local tap water may taste, smell bad, but safe to drink say officials

Flickr member HereStanding

Thousands of residents on the Central Coast may find their tap water has a rank taste and smell this summer.

The offending compound is known as MIB (2-methylisoborneol), and can give water an earthy, musty essence.

Several communities in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties that supplement their supplies with state water are affected by the seasonal change, which recently registered higher than expected for this time of year.

San Luis Obispo County Water Laboratory Manager Faith Zenker says despite its unpleasant qualities, its not a health hazard.

"Typically what people will find is that their water smells very musty, tastes very dirty, and sometimes people can perceive that as meaning the water is unsafe to drink or dirty and that's not the case," said Zenker. "The water is perfectly fine to drink, it just will not taste particularly good at this time."

The compound is a byproduct of blue-green algae and the decay of organic matter in surface waters.

Customers in the following areas may notice the MIB issue with their tap water:

San Luis Obispo County

  • Arroyo Grande
  • Avila Beach/Avila Valley
  • Cuesta College
  • Grover Beach
  • Morro Bay
  • Pismo Beach
  • Oceano

Santa Barbara County: (waiting on list from Dept. of Public Works)

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