Louisville Water scientists usually start seeing changes in the Ohio River when spring turns to summer.
“Warmer weather means warmer water and that’s when things start to grow,” said Chris Bobay, Manager of Water Quality & Compliance. “Dry weather can make conditions ripe for nuisance algae growth.”
The weather was dry in late May this year, and June was fairly hot.
“Algae need sunlight to grow,” Bobay said. “As the flow of the river decreases, the river slows down and clears up, allowing sunlight to penetrate more of the river than normal. We monitor the river very closely during this time so we can be ready to treat for algae.”
Louisville Water scientists collect river samples not only at the Zorn Avenue facility but also at Goshen and Westport “multiple times a week to understand the river conditions there,” Bobay said.
He also pointed out that algae isn’t the only problem during hot weather: “There’s a lot more bacteria growing as well, so we don’t just treat the water and send it out and hope for the best. It has to be actively managed. At the plant, Operations is constantly adjusting our treatment chemicals to ensure proper disinfection of harmful bacteria and to keep our water safe. It doesn’t stop there. Water quality has to be actively managed in the distribution system as well. We do a lot of flushing and tank draining/cleaning to maintain water quality for our customers.”
One of the routine tests our scientists do to maintain high water quality is simply to taste and smell it. Bobay said the testers ask themselves such questions as “Is it earthy? Is it fishy? Is it musty, grassy, sweet?” If scientists think the taste or the smell is off, they may set up a taste or odor panel so several team members can assess it.
Now that summer is turning into fall, Bobay said, the river will begin to contain “more leaves and decaying vegetation, which means we’ll adjust our treatment strategies again.”