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Ohio village’s water a washout for gold

Montpelier taps into top tier

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Judges evaluate entries in the annual Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting in Berkeley, W.Va.

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MONTPELIER, Ohio — Thirsty for a first-place win, Montpelier missed out on the gold but placed in the top tier of the best water in the world, based on judging during the 24th annual Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting competition in West Virginia.

The village was in good company. All but one of the six best-tasting municipal waters had won before, say organizers of the weekend event in the historic spa town of Berkeley Springs.

Once again, Canadian tap water from Clearbrook, B.C., was declared the best. The top tap water in the United States flowed from Santa Ana, Calif., and Greenwood, B.C., was third, followed by Montpelier and Dickinson, N.D., in a fourth-place tie.

Entries were judged from 18 states, three Canadian provinces, 12 foreign nations, and five continents.

Waters were rated on such attributes as appearance — it should be clear or slightly opaque for glacial waters; aroma — there should be none; taste — it should taste clean; mouth feel — it should feel light, and aftertaste — it should leave you thirsty for more, according to the competition's Web site.

Montpelier has won first-place honors for its municipal water three times: in 2003, 2006, and 2007. Signs in the town of 4,010 people proclaim the wins.

Kurt Roan, Montpelier’s supervisor of administrative services, said the village has competed in the event for close to 10 years.

In recent years, Canadians have soaked up top honors. They win gold in hockey, they win gold with their water. “Darned Canadians,” joked Josh Fritsch, Montpelier’s water treatment plant supervisor.

“For quite a few years, we never had people from Canada, and now there are a lot,” he said.

One year, after Montpelier finished first in a field flooded with competitors, a water-treatment plant operator from British Columbia called and asked the village’s secret.

Mr. Fritsch refused to reveal details, but the caller proceeded to brag about Canadian water, crystal clear runoff from nearby mountains.

Not many mountains in Montpelier, really none at all, but there is a splendid aquifer, possibly flowing from Lake Michigan. “We have the best water in the world from that aquifer,” he said. “We should win every year.”

The competition was held just hours away from Charleston, W.Va., where a chemical spill last month tainted tap-water supply in several counties. Charleston had no entries. A panel discussion at the weekend event was aimed at bringing attention to protecting municipal water supplies. Montpelier’s well field is in an isolated area, limiting hazards such as spills, Mr. Fritsch said.

And when Montpelier wins, people come from far away — Toledo, for instance — for samples. The response: “That’s good water.”

Montpelier replaced its 1930s plant in 2005.

After testing the water, so to speak, with new technologies, “we decided the way we were treating our water was the best way and didn’t have to change what we have done since the 1930s,” Mr. Fritsch said. “The community has come to expect good water, and we were not going to give them something less.”

Contact Janet Romaker at: jromaker@theblade.com or 419-724-6006.

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