By Karen Hall
FAYETTEVILLE - Lewisburg and Chapel Hill both entered water samples in the Best Tasting Water contest held at a regional utility meeting last week, but neither emerged a winner.
At the Region 6 meeting of the Tennessee Association of Utility Districts, Duck River Utility Commission's water was judged the best tasting. It is taken from the Normandy Reservoir, and supplied to customers in Manchester, Tullahoma, and surrounding areas.
Water samples were drawn from an ordinary utility customer's tap no more than 48 hours before the contest, without the benefit of additional filtration, softening or aeration. The samples were transported to Fayetteville chilled, but then allowed to warm to room temperature before being tasted.
The water samples arrived in a variety of containers, mostly glass, but their utility of origin was kept secret. They were identified only with numbers.
Each judge had a separate score sheet for each sample, grading on a scale of one to 10 for clarity, bouquet and taste. Transparent plastic cups were used, and the score sheets and cups for each sample were picked up before the next ones were issued. Dewayne Culpepper and Bruce Trotter, wearing latex gloves, were in charge of pouring and handing out the water. Each judge had a plate of plain crackers to nibble between samples to "cleanse the palate."
Larry Lewis, a TAUD source water protection specialist from Jackson, explained to the four-judge panel how they were to score the water.
"Hold it up to the light to check for clarity," he said. "If there's a critter looking at you, make sure it has a smile on its face." He went on to explain that "bouquet" referred to how the water smelled. The mark for taste, of course, was self-explanatory.
In fact, all the samples were beautifully clear, and nearly odorless. All were eminently drinkable, though one or two were not delicious.
The judging panel was composed of Cornersville Mayor Amos Davis, Republican candidate Billy Spivy, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Columbia Field Office Director David Money, and newspaper reporter Karen Hall.
"The judges are honest - I brought them," said TAUD Region 6 leader Kenneth Carr, manager of Lewisburg's Water and Wastewater Department.
"All but one of you can be second," Carr said as he announced the winner was the Duck River Utility Commission. Thus, the second-place winners were, in alphabetical order, Bedford County, Chapel Hill, Consolidated, Fayetteville, Lewisburg, Lincoln County, Murfreesboro, Pulaski, Spring Hill, and Winchester.
There are 11 TAUD regions in the state, and the winning water from each one will go to Gatlinburg in August for the state contest, held in conjunction with the annual conference.
"We're going to try and hold up our end," representatives of DRUC promised.
The best-tasting water in Tennessee will be entered in the Great American Water Taste Test, to be held in Washington, D.C. in 2013.
While the water tasting was going on at one side of the room, representatives of Region 6 utilities heard a variety of presentations, ranging from cloud computing to an update on rules and regulations.
Last to speak was Region 7 leader Annie Chiodo of Waynesboro Utilities. She told the group that 67 percent of homes in Wayne County do not have access to municipal water, and the water supply for an estimated 80 percent of those would test positive for E.coli.
"These people do not understand how critical safe water is for their health," Chiodo said. There have been four medical emergencies due to high E.coli counts in the last seven years, she said, and one life has been lost. This year, Chiodo helped found Safe Water 4 Wayne County, a non-profit organization, to help people make their water safe to drink.
She was pleased to announce the first donation to the organization came from the TAUD meeting's host, American Development Corporation of Fayetteville, a supplier of water and wastewater treatment chemicals.
TAUD Region Six consists of Bedford, Cannon, Coffee, Franklin, Giles, Lincoln, Marshall, Maury, Moore, Rutherford and Williamson counties.__ _The Tennessee Association of Utility Districts is the oldest rural water association in the nation and serves as the Tennessee chapter of the National Rural Water Association. TAUD serves as a source of training, technical assistance, and advocacy to over 400 water, wastewater and natural gas utility members within the state.
For more information, please visit the Web site www.taud.org.