Q&A/Ohio town wins best tasting water competition
In February, Montpelier, Ohio, was named the municipal water district with the best tasting water in the world at the Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting Competition. The annual contest is held in Berkeley Springs, W.Va., during the spa town’s Winter Festival of the Waters. Montpelier’s water treatment plant, which serves a population of 4,300, has entered the competition annually since 1998, and it has reached the finals almost every year. Joshua Fritsch, chief operator for the water treatment plant, discusses the village’s history with the competition and its secret for success.
Q: Last year Montpelier placed fifth in the competition. Did you do anything different to improve the taste of the water since last year?
Fritsch: Nope. It’s the same plant, same water. It’s a very subjective test. There’s no scientific basis for it. I know in the past, when we’ve gotten second place a couple times, one judge nailed us about the taste and said that it didn’t taste good at all. It seems like every time we send water in, there’s one judge that thinks our water isn’t any good.
Q: How do they distinguish the samples of water?
A: They judge by appearance, odor, flavor, mouthfeel, aftertaste and overall impression of the water. It’s a blind test; they don’t know whose water is whose.
Q: How did you prepare your water samples for the competition?
A: We put them in glass bottles that are washed and rinsed a bunch of times. We have to check chlorine when we take the sample and pH. I think our water had 0.7 or 0.8 [milligrams per liter] of free chlorine when we sent it in. Our pH runs around 9. It’s a little higher than some [other plants]. Our water treatment plant is a lime softening plant, so we add hydrated lime to the water to help us take iron and some calcium out of the water and a little bit of magnesium. It ends up reducing the hardness in our water by about half. The pH is around 7.5 when it comes in, and when it goes out it’s 9.
Q: Do residents remark about how good the water tastes in the village?
A: We’ve had people say that they really like the water, but then that’s usually after they see something in the newspaper about us getting second place or fifth place [at the competition]. Most of what you get is people complaining about how much they have to pay for water.
Q: Where does your water come from?
A: We’re a groundwater treatment plant. Groundwater is just a lot easier to treat than surface water usually because we don’t have problems with algae, which will give you taste and odor problems.
Q: Does Montpelier have any secrets to keeping its water tasting really good?
A: We don’t know why it does as good [at the competition] as it does besides it being groundwater. It’s very stable water. We don’t have to change anything that we do at the plant, ever. Maybe we’re in a really good aquifer. Williams County (where we live) is probably one of the best places around Ohio for groundwater. A lot of areas in Ohio have a lot of sulfur in their water, and we don’t have that. The aquifer that we get [water] out of is very productive and recharges very easily. Maybe the lime softening does it. Pretty much, that’s our secret. If we had one, I probably couldn’t tell you anyway, but we don’t.