Anniston Water Works’ water won a blind taste test at a convention of the Alabama-Mississippi Section of the American Water Works Association, which was held earlier this month in Huntsville.
It’s not the first time Anniston’s water has been judged the best-tasting. Anniston’s water was judged best in 1994, the last time the association had a taste test, Owens said.
Residents of Anniston and much of Calhoun County get their drinking water from Coldwater Spring via the water works’ Paul B. Krebbs treatment plant. According to a U.S. Geological Survey study, the spring rises from deep underground, where it seasons between 35 and 40 years soaking up minerals in the rocky depths. It then bubbles to the surface, where the Krebbs plant filters and treats it before pumping it out to customers in Anniston, Saks, Wellborn, Eastaboga and Bynum, Owens said.
“It’s really a natural wonder,” he said. “The historic annual flow of the spring is about 32 million gallons a day, and the average temperature is just under 62 degrees Fahrenheit.”
The natural phenomenon that makes for such tasty water is probably the underground seasoning, according to Kelly Gregg, Jacksonville State University professor of earth and physical sciences.
“Usually the tasty water will have a little calcium in it, maybe a little magnesium in it, but not too much of anything really, just a little hint of those things,” he said.
“Then more noticeably, the things that make it taste bad would be things like iron or sulphur or sodium. We’re lucky here, that just in this region here, we don’t have a lot of those bad-tasting minerals.”
The large amount of time underground also helps purify the water, Gregg said. It kills microbes found in surface water and conditions the water.
“We are really blessed here,” he said. “We have this super quality water and there’s so much of it, it just jumps out of the ground like in Coldwater Spring.”
Coldwater Spring has been used for drinking water since the 1800s, and the water plant has been there for more than 100 years, Owens said. The water plant first became a municipal department in 1935 after the city bought it from the Alabama Water Service Company.
The water is prized enough the city had been bottling it for sale up until earlier this year. The company that had contracted to do the bottling went out of business, but Owens said other companies are looking at taking over.
“We’re hopeful we’ll have a new contract soon,” he said.
The plant is permitted to process 30 million gallons per day. On average, it treats about 14 million gallons a day, 17 million during its peak periods, said Yulas “Bubba” Johnson, plant operator at Krebbs.
That is a credit to the employees who run the plant 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, Owens said.
“Mostly our customers recognize if they turn on the faucet and it comes out, that’s pretty much all they care about really,” he said.
However, the city has an award-winning plant — Krebbs treatment plant just won its seventh annual Plant Optimization award from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management.
“Basically, all we’re doing is chlorinating and fluorinating it,” Johnson said.
That’s not all, really, Owens corrected. The operators are constantly testing the water, in its raw and finished states, as it comes through the plant. They operate the pumps and filters at the plant and monitor the water levels in the 14 storage tanks and the pressure in the line.
The water works leadership has also been recognized for service to the water industry. General Manager Jim Miller received the 2010 Fuller Award from the Alabama-Mississippi Section of the American Water Works Association. Miller, a 30-year veteran of the water industry, has been general manager of Anniston’s water works since 1996.
Miller has also been active in water industry affairs as chairman of the AWWA section, as vice-chair of the Alabama Water and Wastewater Institute and as a member of the Alabama Water Resources Commission.
The taste test Anniston won was sponsored by the Alabama-Mississippi section’s Young Professionals Committee and was open to all member utilities that had no state or federal violations within the last fiscal year.
Now that Anniston has proved it has model-quality water, the city is eligible to enter its water in a national “Best of the Best” competition in Washington, D.C., to be held in June 2011.
Star staff writer Laura Camper: 256-235-3545.