For a few weeks now, my drinking water has tasted earthy/metallic. This is nothing new - the water coming out of our taps is so crap that I got a filter jug, something I would normally scorn as being an affectation, and have to regularly clean the faint red deposit off the sides of the unfiltered water part of it (hundred+ year old clay pipes). There are even times when water first thing in the morning is orange to the naked, bleary and sleepy eye.
But this was particularly bad and, in a beautiful moment of the sort of coincidence that sees people not shutting up about their children "developing" autism the day after getting vaccinations (which just goes to show how unobservant they were about their own child's developmental neurological disability), this came about just as fluoride was being added to the drinking water supply and making its way to homes.
Now, I come from Tasmania, which has had fluoridated water since before I was born, and Tasmanian drinking water was, when I left, better-tasting than any tap water I've discovered in Queensland so far. Plus, I also know all about fluoride being a naturally occurring chemical in water supplies, and that fluoridated water is not so much adding as regulating the fluoride content.
So I was skeptical of this being the cause of the taste, but hey, human error and too much added is always a possibility.
Well, now we have the solution and, frankly, it's more worrying than the thought that we might all have been dosed up with too much fluoride and can expect brown teeth or something.
It's water contamination that our treatment plant isn't equipped to handle (ABC News Online). I'll repeat that. Contamination that our water treatment plant isn't equipped to handle.
Apparently, runoff from recent rains - which has made the river brown from a month before Christmas until now, with no signs of this reducing - resulted in geosmin, a microbe-produced organic compound, being added in large amounts to dams with small amounts of water in them. And the treatment plant wasn't able to get rid of it.
I don't care if this wasn't actually a health problem and that the only consequence is an earthy smell and taste that the human body happens to be particularly sensitive to (why?), it's not a good sign for public health initiatives in general, is it?
If you are worried about this in water: The compounds break down in acidic conditions, so as soon as it hits your stomach you'll be fine. Unless, of course, the components are poisonous.
Link to the beautifully no-I'm-not-panic-mongering-at-ALL-titled ABC News Online article "SEQ's foul water flushed out"