New smells in municipal water have travelled down the Milk River and are offending the noses and taste buds of residents of towns across the Hi-Line.
While the odor and taste of the water in Havre has been an issue that the Havre City Council has been grappling with all summer, the city government in Chinook were discussing the issue and its reach out at least to Harlem on Thursday.
Prior to Thursday night’s Chinook City Council meeting, council member Freda Bryson asked Chinook Water Plant Superintendent Cory Fox why the city’s water had taken on those Milk River flavors.
Fox said the water coming downstream is causing problems with no obvious solution.
“We’re doing everything we can do, ” Fox said.
Part of the reason the smell had recently emerged was the lowering of the chlorine added to the water to try and address another problem with the water, the high amount of “by-products” that seem to fill the river this year.
“There’s a trade-off for everything you do, it seems, ” Fox said.
Farther down the Milk River, Harlem’s Water Plant Operator Don Coffman has been similarly frustrated.
“A lot of it is just algae in our ponds, and then whatever else is coming down the river. It seems something is coming down, ” Coffman said. “It’s been worse this year than it has been the past few years. ”
In fact, Coffman said, it was the worst he had seen in the more than 15 years he has been working in water treatment.
Despite what it smells like, the consensus is that the water is safe by all standards.
While the problems seem to be the same across the Milk River, the prognosis differs.
Cory Fox said Thursday that he was afraid the water situation might get even worse before it gets better.
Coffman, who started working with the Department of Environmental Quality this week according to Harlem Mayor Bill Taylor, feels more hopeful and said he has already seen some progress toward water that is as odorless as it should be.