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Giant algae bloom disrupts one of Butte's reservoirs, leaving some residents with funky water

Posted at 6:10 PM, Sep 06, 2023

BUTTE — A large algae bloom at Basin Creek Reservoir caused some taste and odor issues for Butte residents beginning last week and the effects are still lingering but officials say the issue is under control and the taste and smell will likely be purged from the water supply soon.

"The algae blooms are unpredictable, and they can happen really quickly. You can come up here one day and there won’t be any real indication of an algae problem, you come up the next day and it looks like somebody poured green paint on the surface of the reservoir," says Jim Keenan, water plant superintendent for Butte-Silver Bow County water division.

Keenan says in late summer it’s not uncommon to have algae blooms on surface water supplies but because of the hot weather and added rainfall, he thinks the run-off added extra nutrients which allowed the bloom to thrive.

"I think that we’ve got the algae bloom completely under control but we understand the concern that people might have we just want to assure people that the taste and odor issues, the compounds that cause those taste and odor issues are harmless," says Keenan.

He says he and his team have been working diligently to remedy the situation and he empathizes with the frustration residents are experiencing but he wants to reassure the community that the water in Butte is safe.

"The reputation of Butte water for a long time, you know, the dirty water chants at the basketball games and that type of thing, you know, 30-40 years ago that was probably accurate. You know before we had any water treatment plants," says Keenan.

Today Butte has really sophisticated water treatment plants for all of the water supplies, including the Basin Creek facility that was introduced in 2017, and Jim Keenan and his team take a lot of pride in delivering a really safe and high-quality water supply.

"But, sometimes mother nature throws you a curve ball that you just do your best to react to as quickly as you can," says Keenan.