‘Musty’ water invades Sedalia

By Travis McMullen Contributing Columnist

July 8, 2014

“Not really sure what all you Sedalians are complaining about with all this tap water stuff,” Caleb Sell said. “Of course, 98 percent of my fluid intake while within city limits involves alcohol, but that is beside the point.”

There are some things that we take for granted: the sun will rise, the trash will be picked up and the city’s water supply will be plentiful and palatable.

But just a few days ago, those Sedalians discovered their once enviable tap water was entering their cups and sinks with a new flavor — the word went out over local social media and in public restaurants. I saw multiple people use the word “dirt” to describe this new flavor sensation.

“Sedalia citizens may have noticed a recent change in their city water,” stated a recent press release from the City of Sedalia.

I had to have some for myself: it might taste a little off, but it can’t be that bad, right?

“The water smelled like potting soil and tasted like it smelled,” Kristine Barnes McNeal said.

I could tell by the smell wafting from the glass that it really was that bad. Dirt wasn’t the first thing that came to mind, though. There was a hint of mold, and a little bit of the flavor of dirt but to me it mostly tasted like someone had scraped some moss off of a tree and made tea out of it. It was as if our water was suddenly dairy-based and had instantly gone sour.

“Water Department Manager Charles Brosch stated that while all water entering the system has been treated, the portion coming from Spring Fork Lake retained a musty odor.” Yeah, that might be the most appropriate descriptive word yet. That makes complete sense in retrospect, because the water does have the flavor profile of a lake.

Of course, this all really got going over the Independence Day weekend, when most of us would be either too drunk, or too festive, to notice a little change in the taste of our water. But the real tragedy is that locals had to wake up on Saturday and Sunday mornings with serious hangovers and no reasonable water to cut through them. Imagine the children who had to play in sprinklers shooting out that kind of water — typically, one of the benefits of adolescent aquatic summer fun is that it improves the smell of the participant.

So we turned to bottled water, and bottled things that mostly consisted of water. Sometimes in the post-apocalypse, the currency consists of bottle caps or gasoline or something like that but in Neo-Sedville we’ll probably exchange bottles of water for goods and services.

“I was buying water and about half the shelves were gone,” noticed McNeal. Clearly, this is a false flag operation perpetrated by Big Water to sell their product.

Tlaloc, the Aztec deity of rain, water and fertility, or one of the other assorted rain gods, must have ultimately shown mercy because we spent most of Monday night being inundated with all of the fresh rainwater that we could handle. I hope that you set out a bucket or two.

“Please note that the current water is bacteriologically safe,” the press release stated. Well, yeah. A little flavor invasion doesn’t mean that I’ve lost faith in the essential filtering processes of the local water supply. But at the same time, all manner of things are technically bacteriologically safe but that still doesn’t mean that I would ever dream of consuming them. I guess I would rather have water that tastes bad and is technically safe rather than dangerous water that tastes fine.

It’s bacteriologically safe, and I have proof: “Only had dysentery twice,” Sell said. “So I can ensure you that our water supply is acceptable for any modern 16th-century town.”

So there’s just one last thing to consider: just how long is this going to last?

The press release is highly optimistic: “The department has identified the issue and plans to have it rectified within the next two to three days.”

But it seems like a reasonably complex problem that might take a little longer than that to solve. Maybe they should have estimated like a week so that they could come in long before their deadline was up and look like heroes. I’d rather have this particular problem solved right, not just solved fast. I don’t want them to rush it and cause a situation that could result in long-term water nastiness. Do it once and do it right.

Nasty water wouldn’t be good for Sedalia in the long run, and it definitely wouldn’t be good for the Missouri State Fair. We’re just weeks away from the time when we need to be on top of our game!

“It has been quite the problem,” McNeal said.