Whitby, Oshawa, Ajax and Pickering water might be stinky but it’s safe

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Published August 11, 2022 at 4:37 pm

tap water
Photo by Andres Siimon

If you noticed an earthy smell in the tap water in Durham Region, you’re not alone.

The water might have earthy or musty odours recently but it is still safe to drink, the Regional Municipality of Durham said in a press release on Aug. 11.


“Taste and odour episodes are caused by seasonal biological changes in Lake Ontario and typically occur in the late summer or early fall,” the municipality said.

Seasonal biological changes in Lake Ontario, especially during hot weather, impact the taste and odour of the water.  Geosmin and 2-Methylisoborneol (MIB), naturally occurring compounds in Lake Ontario and Lake Simcoe, are behind the change. They are not harmful to public health and the region’s water quality is not otherwise affected.

Laboratory testing of both the raw and treated water confirmed municipal water meets all Ontario Drinking Water Quality Standards as set by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks.

This change happens every year. Typically the water changes in late summer or early fall. Although it is difficult to predict when conditions will return to normal, taste and odour episodes will generally fade away after the lake water temperatures decrease.

To reduce the taste and odour in the drinking water residents can refrigerate a jug of water, or add ice cubes and a few drops of lemon juice to the water.

For more information about the municipal water supply systems in Durham Region, visit durham.ca/water. Water Quality Reports are available online at durham.ca.

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