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Members of the Yellow Springs Village Water Department crew stand with the trophy they received for winning “Best Tasting Water” at the 2023 Rural Water Association’s water tasting competition. Pictured from left are Jeff Horn, Dale Fisher, Kevin Martin, Water Superintendant Brad Ault and Public Works Director Johnnie Burns. (Photo by Jessica Thomas)

Yellow Springs wins ‘best’ water

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“This toast is for our water operators who get it done every day.”

At the Monday, May 15, Village Council meeting, Public Works Director Johnnie Burns opened the meeting with a celebration — Yellow Springs had won the Ohio Rural Water Association’s 2023 water tasting competition.

The Village water crew competed against 10 other rural municipalities; according to Burns, the municipality that received second place has 73,000 water taps and a water crew of over 40 people.

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The Yellow Springs water treatment crew is a small but mighty team: Water Superintendent Brad Ault, who has been with the Village for 16 years; and operators Kevin Martin, Jeff Horn and Dale Fisher, who have been working for the Village for five years, nine years and eight years, respectively.

“With these four people, we brought home first place,” Burns said.

Burns said 2023 is the second year that the Village has entered the competition. Last year, Burns said the Village virtually tied, but ultimately won third place. This year, the panel of five judges said Yellow Springs’ water was the best tasting, beating out last year’s winners, Le-Ax Regional Water District and Delco Water Company, who won the competition from 2018–2021.

The competition, held May 9, is scored by a panel of five judges, who sample from a single gallon of water from each competitor. The judges score is based on clarity, odor and taste, for a possible total of 70 points.

“We had a score of 69 — one point away from a perfect score,” Burns said.

In a follow-up interview with Ault and Horn at the water treatment facility on Jacoby Road, the pair said the water in Yellow Springs is totally different from when they began working for the Village.

“There’s no more brown water coming out of our taps or fire hydrants,” Ault said.

Within the last decade, there have been a number of changes to the Water Treatment Department, beginning with a community outcry over the conditions of the former water treatment plant, which had been in operation for 50 years. In 2016, Council voted to build a new water treatment plant. The project was completed in 2017, and the water crew got to work.

During this reporter’s visit, Horn performed a test of the chlorine level in the water, just one of the daily tests done by the crew, which also measure the water’s hardness, alkalinity and pH levels.

“We do these tests to assure the water is safe,” Horn said.

According to Horn and Ault, the water is pumped from wells located around the treatment facility. After the water reaches the facility, it goes through a number of filtration systems, which remove the sediments and soften the water. In his office, Ault keeps a jar with an example of the layers of filters the water goes through.

“We use green sand, gravel, pea gravel and anthracite,” Ault said.

After the water is filtered and backwashed — a process where the contaminants are flushed out of the facility — it is treated.

“It takes a lot to make a good glass of water,” Horn said.

“We’ve come a long way,” Ault said. “To go from the issues we had with iron and manganese to winning best tasting water in Ohio — it’s a huge accomplishment we all take pride in.”

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