SPECIAL REPORT: What's In Your Water?

by Kristen Lowe
NewsWest 9

There are so many great things about the Permian Basin. However, many residents agree that the water isn't one of them.

According to a local environmental chemist, Brent Barron, strange odors and tastes are caused by either chemical or biological contaminants. Biological contaminants would be things like bacteria and algae. Chemical contaminants would be things like sulfide, chloride and arsenic.

NewsWest 9 wanted to figure out what is giving our water that unpleasant taste. So we took samples from Odessa and Midland city water, as well as water that had been put through a filter pitcher.

We tested for Algae byproducts like Geosmin and Methylisoborneol (MIB), which Barron said are most likely to give a musty or fishy taste. We also tested for the usual culprits, like chlorine, sulfate, arsenic, etc.

Turns out, we didn't find any Geosmin or MIB.

"The biggest issue with taste and odor would be the chlorine," Barron said.

That means the same chemical that's being used to clean pools is being used in drinking water. But is drinking all that Chlorine safe?

"The number of parts of Chlorine in the drinking water is safe for human consumption," Dr. Bruce Becker, Chief Medical Officer at Medical Center Hospital, said. "As the cities monitor it, they will continue to keep your water safe for drinking."

The Chlorine in Midland's water measured in at 0.42 parts per million. That's not even close to a pool, which is about 2 parts per million Chlorine, or two gallons of Chlorine per million gallons of water. That's what you'd have to ingest to start having an effect on your health.

According to our tests, the average filter pitcher may be a waste of money. The Chlorine levels decreased by approximately a tenth. All of the other chemicals were virtually unchanged.

To see a drastic improvement in taste, Barron recommends a reverse osmosis system which eliminates 75-80 percent of Chlorine and many contaminants.