West Virginia water plants tie for first place with best-tasting drinking water

West Virginia water plants tie for first place with best-tasting drinking water
The Bluefield wastewater treatment plant team includes, from left, operator Mike Gibson, operator John Sizemore, production supervisor Jason Vest, West Virginia Office of Environmental Health district engineer supervisor John Stafford, supervisor of water quality and environmental compliance David Thomas, and Southern operating area manager John Pentasugalia. (Photos courtesy of West Virginia American Water)

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Winning comes natural to water treatment plants in West Virginia. The Bluefield water treatment plant and the Bluestone water system tied for first place in a taste test competition.

The West Virginia Section of the American Water Works Association (WV-AWWA) awarded the best tasting drinking water honors at its annual conference earlier this year.

“It’s a matter of pride for me,” says John Pentasuglia, West Virginia American Water southern operating area manager, who oversees both plants. “It made me proud for my staff because I know what it meant to them. Within my group, my peers and operational leadership team across the state, it’s sort of a competition internally amongst us. If nothing else, it’s good for bragging rights for another year.”

Four operators and one production supervisor run the plants located in Bluefield and True. Staff size is proof that a small group effort can still produce the best-tasting drinking water. “For my operators, it’s another way of being recognized for their efforts and dedication they put into the job,” says Pentasuglia.

In addition, the Bluestone plant is the first treatment plant in the state to receive permission from the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health for a yearlong test to run one shift fully automated. It was granted about two months before the contest. “The plant won best-tasting water while it was operating one shift unmanned,” says Laura Jordan, West Virginia American Water external affairs manager.

Twelve plants submitted samples for the competition, and they were judged based on clarity, taste and odor using a 10-point scale. Judges were WV-AWWA chairman Matt Stanley, AWWA national vice president Dan Hood, and WV-AWWA membership chair Shelley Watkins.

“Normally what wins out is a lack of a mineral taste,” says Stanley. “Clear and has no taste. You definitely didn’t want any kind of a chlorine taste.”

The tasting competition also gives attendees a chance to relax and have a good time. “It’s one more fun thing to do at our conferences,” says Stanley. “It was a lot of fun and eye-opening.”

The two plants also tied for the U.S. EPA’s Area Wide Optimization Program (AWOP) award, which recognizes the efforts of state water systems that prioritize their water treatment plant performance. The award is administered by the West Virginia Department of Health & Human Resources.


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