A new sensory method was developed and tested at a full-scale water treatment plant. The method evaluates changes in aesthetic water quality during transit in the distribution system. A paired comparison format is used to determine if the odor of a distribution-system sample is different from that of a control sample. The control sample represents the “ideal” water, such as treated water leaving the plant. The method can rapidly determine whether or not a problem exists in the distribution system, and, if one does exist, it allows for characterization of the problem. Over a three-month period a 4-member odor panel evaluated 118 distribution samples by this new procedure. Among the 118 samples tested, 39 samples yielded a consensus among the analysts as to the odor characteristics of the sample; 35 were rated “not different from the control” (about 90%), and only 4 were rated “different from control” (about 10%). The 79 samples for which no consensus was generated had only slight rating differences between analysts and for odor intensity. No taste-and-odor problems were reported by consumers during the time period for this study and the method indicated that no major odor problems existed in the distribution system.

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