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Montgomery creates a splash  with win in Kane water taste test

Chris Lemke president Kane County Water Associatipours water from local municipality inbeaker be judged during annual taste testing contest pitting

Chris Lemke, president of the Kane County Water Association, pours water from a local municipality into a beaker to be judged during the annual taste testing contest pitting the water of Kane County municipalities against each other on Thursday, December 20, 2012, in Batavia. | Jeff Cagle~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 22, 2013 6:31AM

Apparently, I’m a bit of a water connoisseur.

Which is ridiculous.

At home, I drink tap, filtered by one of those gizmos attached to the faucet. The “change filter” light has been blinking red at me for months.

My taste buds have been so abused and neglected that my wine comes from a box. I place it on top of the fridge so that I can refer to it as a top-shelf selection.

But 10 beakers of water awaiting judgment for their clarity, odor and taste posed less of a challenge than I had anticipated Thursday afternoon when I served as a judge in the Kane County Water Association’s annual taste test.

Alongside fellow water experts Mike McCoy, former Kane County board chairman, and Bob Sassman, hydrologist emeritus of the Illinois State Water Survey — who, it should be noted, was the only true water expert among us — I stared through beakers, sniffed over the glass edge and sipped.

And while water, thankfully, looks pretty much like water throughout the county, clear, colorless, with no hunks of anything floating about in it, not all water is created equal. When it came to odor and taste, the task of sorting out chlorine and organic odors, not to mention metallic after-tastes from clean-tasting water, was not as tricky as it had seemed at first glance. Good water is just plain tasty.

The winner? The village of Montgomery.

As if to validate our collective taste-testing credentials as something other than completely subjective, Montgomery Utilities Supervisor Jack Rosenstiel informed us that just this spring the village completed a $1.3 million upgrade to its main treatment facility.

Montgomery’s water supply, which is groundwater, not of the Fox River variety, is passed through air strippers, then something called a claricone. Lime and polymer are added and iron and other particulates are absorbed out of the water. A recarbination unit adds fluoride and chlorine, before the water is allowed to sit in a clear well and head out into the pipes and then taps of every home in the village.

I don’t understand it all, but it makes for some darn good water, the best of all Kane County communities.

The water for the taste test, it should be noted, was sampled directly from the treatment plant, not from Boulder Hill, where a change in wells and some rusty pipes caused chaos and reports of busted water softeners and orange hair earlier this year. The design phase for the water system repair that will remediate those delivery issues is currently under way, with a complete plan slated to be in place this summer.

But the rest of Montgomery’s water customers can take pride and guzzle it down.

This is the first year Montgomery has taken home the prize, and Rosenstiel was visibly excited, heaping praise upon his crew.

“Everybody takes pride in what we do produce,” Rosenstiel said.

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