Due to concerns about Shawnee's water quality, Phyllis Rigney has resorted to purchasing only bottled water to drink, and does not allow her granddaughter to drink tap water in Shawnee.
"I thought for a while I had mold growing in my house because of the smell," Rigney said.
Rigney said her chief complaint has been about the smell and taste. She added that when she called the water department, she was told the smell and taste are due to the lake "turning over," or the water at the bottom of the lake rising to the top, in addition to mass rains affecting the taste.
"Due to recent heavy rainfall, strong winds and changing temperatures, a naturally occurring process has taken place which causes the lakes that supply us our water to stir, leading to sedimentation rising up from the lower levels of the lakes," Steve Nelms, interim utility director, said.
"These conditions can create taste and odor problems with our water supply," Nelms added.
Rigney said she is concerned that the water may not be up to Environmental Protection Agency or Department of Environmental Quality standards.
"It's just getting gradually worse," she said. "It's always had the chlorine taste, but not this."
Nelms said the water is "consistently treated" and the water supply is "meeting and exceeding DEQ and EPA standards."
"Your drinking water is safe," Nelms said.
Rigney added that she doesn't like paying as much as she does for water – she estimated more than $80 per month for herself – to have it taste the way it does.
City Manager Brian McDougal echoed Nelms' statements about the water being safe and up to standards.
"This has absolutely nothing to with price, it has to do with nature," McDougal said. "Mother Nature dealt us the heavy rains, which we've very glad to have, but the rains churned up the organics in the lake."
The city has begun using Shawnee Twin Lakes for most of the drinking water, instead of Wes Watkins, in an attempt to combat the taste and smell issue.
"It's no secret that the organics in Wes Watkins are delicate," McDougal said.
Shawnee Twin Lakes do not have the same issues with sediment and other organics.
Sandra O'Donnell, who has lived in the area since she was a child, said the water "tastes terrible."
"I thank God I had already made my tea," O'Donnell said.
She added that this isn't uncommon for the lakes.
"It's done this on and off since I can remember," O'Donnell said. "It's just a cycle. You just have to live through it."