The Northwest Ottawa Water Treatment Plant received the regional award for best-tasting drinking water at the American Water Works Association Michigan Section’s Kalamazoo Spring Regional Meeting earlier this year — an honor won by the city for the first time in 2015 and again last year.
“It’s wonderful,” said Joe Vander Stel, manager of the Northwest Ottawa Water Treatment Plant. “There’s so much negativity over tap water and water in general. It’s nice we have a lot of communities doing the right thing.”
Grand Haven beat submissions from eight other communities at the 2018 regional meeting.
Entrants were required to bring water to the spring conference in an unmarked jar for judges to sample. The panel tasted the water — which was served at room temperature and without ice or other additives — to determine the winner. Entries consisted of both groundwater and surface-water sources in the region, Vander Stel noted.
“There’s a big difference between a groundwater source and a surface-water source,” he said.
Surface water occurs as streams, lakes and wetlands, as well as bays and oceans. The water below the surface of the Earth primarily is groundwater.
Grand Haven’s water source is considered a surface-water source, as it is drawn from Lake Michigan.
“Our technique is unique to the state of Michigan,” Vander Stel said. “We’re pulling it through the sand before it gets to the water plant.”
The sandy floor first naturally filters the water before it’s pumped to the treatment plant.
With its regional honor, the city treatment plant is now qualified for the state taste-off at the AWWA Michigan Section’s annual conference in September in Kalamazoo. Grand Haven will compete against the winners of the state’s three other regions in a similar process, with the winner moving on to a national taste-off next year in Denver.
Vander Stel noted that the city was close to winning the state competition in 2017, coming in behind Ann Arbor.
“I’ve got my fingers crossed,” said Vander Stel, who will be attending the conference due to his involvement in the AWWA.