What made the water in Eagle Mountain taste different? Water expert weighs in

Mar 9, 2023, 7:55 AM

EAGLE MOUNTAIN, Utah — Residents in Eagle Mountain have been raising concerns about their drinking water after the city switched to a different well last week. The change was quickly noticed by residents, who complained of a change in taste and smell.

“My daughter said it tastes like dirt,” Karissa Peugnet said. “I need to make sure I know what’s in my water.”

Peugnet along with several residents brought jars of their tap water to local water research and consulting firm Enevive. The total dissolved solids, or TDS, readings from their samples ranged from 730 to 860, which is within the range the city has been reporting since the switch and within the state’s limit of 2,000.

“Honestly, I expected it to be a lot lower…and seeing it now is just quite alarming,” said Derek Danklef.

On Feb. 27, the city switched from well 1 to well 5, due to maintenance. That switch to well 5 led to a change in some levels in the city’s water. Nitrate increased by about 300%, selenium about 250%, and sulfate about 45%. Arsenic decreased by 74%, and fluoride by 68%.

TDS levels doubled to 870 after the well switch. This is still below the state’s limit, but experts believe it could easily be the reason why residents noticed the change.

“Maybe it tastes a little bit bitter, but it’s not having any health effects. It’s just simply the way we are enjoying the water,” said Erin Rivers with the Utah State University Water Quality Extension Team.

TDS is the combination of organic and inorganic components in water, including calcium, magnesium, sodium chloride, iron and sulfur compounds. These components can be healthy or harmful depending on their levels. The EPA says that once TDS readings get above 500, the taste and smell profile changes.

“I think it is just a matter of what effects are occurring at each of those levels, and the most strong effect would occur above 2,000 and that is the health effect,” Rivers said.

A spokesperson for the Utah Department of Environmental Quality said the state has a limit of 2,000 TDS because groundwater sources are naturally high in TDS in certain areas of the state.

“Our goal is to work with water systems to monitor TDS levels and implement a water treatment plan if the system does not have an alternate drinking water source available,” said Matt McPherson, the Utah DEQ’s public information officer.

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What made the water in Eagle Mountain taste different? Water expert weighs in