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Published: Wednesday, 9/23/2009

Nasty taste, odor in Swanton water to be attacked


Swanton has rented a solar-powered device to stir the water in its reservoir and has hired a contractor to remove noxious weeds in hopes of reducing, if not eliminating, an unpleasant taste and odor in its drinking water.

During a meeting last week, the village council agreed to hire Sediment Removal Solutions, of Wapakoneta, Ohio, to vacuum up Eurasian water milfoil from the 20-acre reservoir's bottom at a cost not to exceed $20,795.

Village administrator Jon Gochenour said the actual cost will vary depending on how long it takes the contractor to do the work, but it is expected to be between $15,000 and $20,000.

The milfoil, which isn't native to local ponds but spreads aggressively once introduced, is believed to have contributed to the dirt-like taste and odor that plagued Swanton's water supply for much of the summer - so much so that some restaurants stopped offering water or drinks made with it, like tea, to customers.

The other culprit in the water is believed to have been a strong algae bloom, with an unpleasant taste and odor developing as the microscopic plants died off.

To address that, the village is renting a SolarBee, a water-circulating device powered by the sun, that keeps water in ponds and reservoirs from stagnating and developing temperature strata, that is, conditions that promote algae growth.

Renting the machine from its Dickinson, N.D.-based manufacturer will cost $16,000 a year, Mr. Gochenour said. It was to have been installed last week, but that was postponed until this week because a needed part was unavailable, he said.

"At the end of one year, if we don't think it's achieving the results we want, we can discontinue it and try another method of aeration and circulation," the village administrator said. But the city of Adrian, Mich., has tried the device and was pleased with the results, he added.

The unpleasant-tasting water prompted widespread complaints from local residents and merchants last month. Mr. Gochenour said there has since been some improvement.

"The water is tasting better than it was in the summertime," he said last week. "It's not where it was before this all started, but it's better."

The water problem "seems to be improving," councilman Jeff Pilliod agreed during council's discussion.

But Mr. Gochenour cautioned village council that the milfoil removal, expected to take five to seven days to complete once it starts, is unlikely to be permanent.

"You're probably going to have to take a look at it [milfoil removal] every couple of years," he said.

And later in the week, Mr. Gochenour said he'll recommend an ordinance banning boats from the reservoir because they could damage the SolarBee device or other aerating equipment, and are also a known means for spreading milfoil seeds either within a body of water or from one body to another.

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