What's milky white, smells like gasoline and comes out of every faucet in the house?

That's what Payson water users would like to know."I turned on the tap and it came spurting out," said Sherrie Peterson, Payson resident. "It looks like watered-down milk. It really bothered me when I saw it."

The problem started Monday afternoon when the control for one of Payson's wells failed, said Don Muhlestein, water and sewer superintendent. Payson has four wells and 11 springs.

"The motor control on well No. 1 burned out, so we put well No. 4 on line. Somehow, well No. 4 is putting extra air in the water, so it looks white."

Muhlestein said he has gotten a few phone calls from concerned citizens.

"It was like a hornet's nest in the office Tuesday."

Peterson didn't call.

"We let the water sit, and it cleared in about 30 seconds. We figured if it was clear, it was probably safe. We decided it was probably air in the water, so my husband checked our pipes for a leak. When he didn't find one, we thought it must be a city problem."

Payson has a two-zone system, and most of the 2 million gallons per day of white water has gone to residents in the south part of town.

Some residents have reported a gasoline or oil smell to the water, but Muhlestein said the water is safe.

"There are no petroleum products used in the system, so nothing could have leaked in. The water is pure."

Tests found acceptable levels of bacteria and no gasoline but did show 1.04 milligrams of mineral oil per liter of water. Muhlestein said mineral oil is used to lubricate the pipes.

"It is safe for humans to consume. Lots of people take it as a laxative."

He speculated the odd taste some people described could come from the pipes.

"The well was completed last fall, and it hasn't really been on line until now. It could be that there is still some metallic taste being flushed out of the new pipes.

"The main concern seems to be over the effervescence and color of the water."

The temporary solution will be to get well No. 1 back on line.

"We ordered a new motor control, but when it came Friday, it had the wrong coil. Now we have ordered a new coil, and it should be here Monday. If it is, well No. 1 will be back on line Monday or Tuesday."

And Peterson's temporary solution to make the white water palatable to her family?

"I make lots of Kool-Aid."