Tri-Valley | Alameda County California 6/25/2017

Many Livermore Tri-Valley ‘Zone 7’ California Water Service Customers are reporting a large amount of complaints in volume about the quality of the water, especially in particular to the change of smell and taste in Livermore, CA.

Here is the official response from California Water Service on their facebook page where you can see the comments about the current water conditions or change in service. They openly admit that there is an “Algae Bloom” and they are treating the surface water which is causing the change in service.

I commented personally on the page asking for the reports myself. I wanted to see a report on the levels of Cyanobacteria and Cyanotoxins in the water if any. Last summer there were reports of a large algae bloom which killed a lot of wildlife and destroyed fisheries along the west coast.

“Highly disagree with your basic assumptions. I would like to see detailed reports since this odor and taste change has occurred for everyone. I just did a water change for my fish tank here in livermore and several of them died. Many other residents are also saying the same thing, that their animals are sick. My family and I have been feeling ill for the last few days! I want answers as to what is going on! We have stopped drinking the water, we are debating on whether or not its safe to wash our bodies with or anything else at this point. Plants are not doing well when being water primarily with tap water, they are showing signs of stress. I am going to call the CDC and every single federal management oversight committee I can possibly think of until this is resolved. I am disabled and a lot of time to kill. I am going to give you some time to sort things out, to sample and test again. I suggest that you have your people jump on that asap. It appears what you have going on right now is an algae bloom of Cyanotoxins. General information about cyanotoxins and their health effects.

What are cyanobacteria and cyanotoxins and where do they come from?

Cyanobacteria (also called blue-green algae) are water-dwelling bacteria that are able to generate their own energy through photosynthesis (the process used by plants and other organisms to convert light energy captured from the sun into chemical energy that can be used to fuel the organism’s activities). Under warm, still or slow-moving water conditions with high levels of nutrients like phosphate and nitrogen, cyanobacteria can reproduce very rapidly. This rapid population growth creates “blooms” that can appear as visible scum on the surface of lakes and rivers. Cyanobacteria can grow in both marine and fresh water; however, only freshwater varieties can grow in lakes and rivers that communities use as sources of drinking water. Cyanotoxins are naturally occurring toxins produced by several species of cyanobacteria under certain conditions. The types of conditions that cause cyanobacteria to produce toxins are not well understood.

At what levels do cyanotoxins in drinking water become a health concern?

There are no federal standards for cyanotoxins in drinking water, but other states and countries have developed drinking water standards and guidelines for various cyanotoxins. Oregon has adopted provisional health-based guideline values for the four cyanotoxins of greatest concern in our drinking water. The four cyanotoxins are: anatoxin-a, cylindrospermopsin, microcystins and saxitoxins (as shown in Table 1). Microcystins and saxitoxins are two classes of cyanotoxins that each include several variations. In cases where microcystins or saxitoxins occur, Oregon Health Authority (OHA) Drinking Water Services (DWS) recommends measuring total microcystins or total saxitoxins before comparing the sample value against the provisional guideline values (see Table 1).

How can cyanotoxins affect my health?
The four cyanotoxins affect different target organs and have varying health effects (as shown in Table 2). Generally, cyanotoxins can be broken down into two categories: hepatotoxins (those that target the liver) and neurotoxins (those that target the nervous system). Microcystins and cylindrospermopsin are primarily hepatotoxins, although cylindrospermopsin can also damage the kidneys. Anatoxin-a and saxitoxins are neurotoxins.”


Several Livermore residents said their dogs and cats were acting sluggish and unresponsive after drinking the tap water. I did a normal water change on my 55 gallon fish tank yesterday for the first time in a couple weeks. Very routine, immediately after filling up the tank all of my fish turned upside down and were unresponsive for several minutes. Three of my fish died. Another Livermore resident said that all the pet fish at Walmart were dead, which would seem to indicate a pattern of aquarium pets dying in town due to the water quality.

It was as though the water was completely deprived of oxygen content, which is indicative of an algae bloom. Algae blooms are not federally regulated, there is still a lot of research about the effects of algae on humans. However, larger doses of ‘blue green algae’, also known as cyanotoxin can be fatal in concentrated doses. Cyanotoxin can build up in shell fish and in marine mammals and can make them sick and/or even kill them. Marine biologists are trying to determine if this is why whales are washing up on west coast beaches.

Are toxic algae blooms sickening sea lions again?

If Cyanotoxin is not federally regulated or tested for in the State of California, how do we know it’s not currently prevalent in this strain of Algae Bloom currently on Lake De Valle or Zone 7 Wholesale water source which many are saying is now the Delta or South Bay Aqueduct which you can see by this official response that I received from the manager of the California Water Service.

Good Morning Nate,

My name is Joshua Heavenston, i’m the Livermore Cal Water Customer Service Manager. I understand you would like more information about what is going on with the Algae bloom occurring. First off, I want to start by apologizing for the inconvenience. I’ve CC’d a few Cal Water employees including Erin Gomez, who is our local Water Quality Program Manager and Gurpal Deol who is Zone 7’s contact for any additional questions you may have beyond this email. Below is information that Zone 7 has provided us as to what the current situation is with the Algae bloom:

Zone 7’s source water, supplied by the California Department of Water Resources through the South Bay Aqueduct, has unusually high levels of geosmin, an odor causing compound. The hot weather is making this situation more severe. The water supply is meeting all state and federal health standards and is safe to drink. 

In an effort to mitigate some of the taste and odor in the finished water, Zone 7 is doing the following;

  •   The surface water treatment plants are feeding the maximum dose of activated carbon, 15 mg/L.
  •   Surface water production has been temporarily reduced, and groundwater production increased to compensate.
  •   Residual total chlorine leaving the surface water plants has been increased to 3.0 mg/L Thank you for your patience while these conditions persist.
    WHO: Customers served by Zone 7
    WHAT: Taste and odor mitigation WHEN: Friday, June 23, 2017 WHY: Very high levels of geosmin 

    Earthy-Musty Taste and Odor

    Algae blooms frequently produce earthy/musty taste and odor compounds such as geosmin and Methyl- Isoborneol (MIB). Both compounds can be detected by human noses at very low levels.

    The human nose is extremely sensitive to geosmin and MIB. If you poured a teaspoon of geosmin or MIB into the equivalent of 200 Olympic-sized swimming pools, you would still be able to smell it. 

    The general threshold for human detection is about 15 ng/L (15 nanograms per liter = 15 parts per trillion). However, people with sensitive pallets can detect these compounds in drinking water when the concentration is as low as 5 ng/L. 

    Zone 7 uses the thresholds of 4 and 9 ng/L respectively for geosmin and MIB in its water supply to initiate powdered activated carbon (PAC) feed at its surface water treatment plants to improve taste and odor. PAC is only moderately effective in reducing these odors. Zone 7 is moving forward with ozone projects at both treatment plants that will provide another tool for the treatment of algal byproducts.

    What are the effects of geosmin and MIB?

    Geosmin and MIB produce an earthy/musty smell and taste in drinking water; however, they are not harmful at the levels present in drinking water.

    What causes increased levels of geosmin and MIB?

    During hot, sunny weather, algae like other plants will thrive. The presence of algae in reservoirs and streams, called algal blooms, and the increase in algae population can cause an increase in geosmin and MIB levels above the taste and odor thresholds. 

    What can be done about geosmin and MIB?

    Zone 7 treats all its water to ensure that it is safe to drink and meets all State and federal standards.

    Zone 7 also routinely monitors geosmin and MIB levels and uses PAC as needed to reduce the earthy/musty taste and odor. PAC is only marginally effective. Ozonation is the most effective water treatment process in improving taste and odor. Additionally, Ozone is also significantly more effective than other treatment processes, such as PAC, chlorine and chloramines, at treating other algal byproducts such as cyanotoxins, as well as chemicals of emerging concern, including endocrine disruptors, pharmaceuticals and personal care products. Zone 7 is in the process of upgrading its plants by adding ozone treatment over the next few years.

    Adding a slice of lemon and/or chilling water can also help to improve the taste of the water.
    For additional questions, please contact Gurpal Deol at or 925-454-5779

    Sincere Regards,

    Josh Heavenston

Additional reports indicate that there is a huge algae bloom in Discovery Bay which they are monitoring and informing the public about according to the Contra Costa Environmental Health Department.

The week of June 29 will be the CCEH’s first round of annual routine sampling, said Lucas, which will continue over the coming months. “Depending upon what we find and how the samples come back, will determine how often we conduct samplings,” said Lucas. “If there is algae, we will notify the public about whether they need to avoid the water.”

I sent a message last night to Erin Brockovich about how bad the water here in the Tri-Valley area. She is fully aware of our situation and also addressing the same water source in the city of Los Angeles right now. It would seem as though the city of L.A. is running of the same Zone 7 Delta water source which she alludes to below.

UPDATED 6/26 Official Statement Re-guarding Mitigation Efforts From Zone 7 ‘Mixed Source’

Hi Nate,

Your dissatisfaction is understandable due to this long lasting event. I am hoping, we will see some relief this week due to relief from very hot weather. In the meantime, we have implemented all mitigation efforts available to us. Water continue to be safe to drink and we are meeting all health related standards. All inconvenience caused to our customers due to this incident is regrettable. Long waited ozone treatment at plants is now in progress and expected to come online by 2019 – 2020.


Fish due to smaller size, are more sensitive to WQ than humans but I am not aware of any detrimental health impacts from these algae related chemicals.


Mitigation measures include:

  • Powdered activated carbon (PAC) at DVWTP and PPWTP continues to be dosed at the maximum of 15 mg/L.
  • Chlorine residual at both WTPs increased to 3.0 mg/L on Thursday.
  • Zone 7 is requesting an increase in the LDV blend percentage.  There is currently a 20% LDV blend.  Jim Odom is looking into this and might be able to get an increase to 35%.  He will let us know by COB Friday.
  • Zone 7 has also created a T&O “fact sheet” that is now accessible to the public through our website:

Gurpal Deol

WQ Manager

Zone 7 Water Agency

I also called and informed the CDC of the problem and emailed them and they said they’re going to investigate the situation, meanwhile they’ve provided this information.

Dear Nate James,

I am the CDPH Division of Environmental and Occupational Disease Control Duty Officer this week. I received the below information from your call this morning.  I encourage you to look over the information about California Harmful Algae Blooms (HABs) found at the California HAB website

Bloom reporting and information can be done by,

Secondly, the Alameda County Department of Environmental Health, has more information on programs to protect the public.   Here is the contact information.

Alameda County Environmental Health
1131 Harbor Bay Parkway
Alameda, CA 94502-6577

Telephone:  (510) 567-6700
E-mail:  DEH

Thank you.

Richard Votava

DEODC Duty Officer

If you have comments or concerns that you would like to share with CWS please leave them below! Thank you!