Prairie du Sac wins taste test; almost skipped competition


PRAIRIE DU SAC, Wis. – The staff of the Prairie du Sac water system watched the live video feed of the Great American Water Taste test, not even knowing they had made the five finalists. By the end of the ceremony, the Wisconsin village’s water had been judged the nation’s best-tasting.

“It was a good day, that day,” said Public Works Director Pat Drone. “I was surprised. It was a great honor.”

The gold medal at the taste test was especially-surprising, since Prairie du Sac nearly skipped the state drinking water test.

“I wasn’t going to send in a sample this year,” Drone said.

He explained that delivery issues had prevented the samples from Prairie du Sac or the near-by village of Bloomington from completing in the Wisconsin taste test. The two villages had not had a sample in the taste test at the same time.

“He said ‘You have to bring a sample,’” Drone said of the Bloomington public works director. “’We have to see who’s water is best.’”

Prairie du Sac won the state competition as won the golden medal award for best tasting water in the nation during the Great American Water Taste Test, held on Feb. 13 at the Rural Water Rally in Washington, D.C.

The utility draws its water from three wells to supply 1,800 customers. The newest well, Number Four, came on-line in 2012, with the original Number One well capped and out of service. The records are not clear, but it appears the water utility has been in operation since 1914.

“A lot of people have mentioned how good the water tastes, even before the competition,” Drone said.

He said he has no proof, but he credits the water’s good taste to the village’s choice of disinfection and the hard work of its employees.

“I don’t like chlorine, so I’m glad the village board decided to go with UV,” he said.

After consulting with experts the board decided to use UV to disinfect water as it was drawn from the wells.

“We still use chlorine to flush the system, which we do twice a year, but out of the ground we use UV,”  Drone explained.

He also gave credit to the water department staff and village board for their hard work in ensuring Prairie du Sac has the highest quality water on tap.

“It falls back on the village board and all the employees,” he said. “Our operations specialists, Rick Rothman and Mark Young do a very good job. They are very conscientious.”

Because of that wok and those decisions, Prairie du Sac can claim it has the best tasting water in the country. It’s a title the village employees look forward to upholding.

“We’re all very excited,” Drone said.

Prairie du Sac wins Taste Test

IMG_3686WASHINGTON, D. C. – The Village of Prairie du Sac, Wis. won the golden medal award for best tasting water in the nation during the Great American Water Taste Test, held on Feb. 13 at the Rural Water Rally in Washington, D.C.

The City of Emporia, Kan. won the silver medal and the City of Pisgah, Iowa won the bronze. The Village of Roscommon, Mich. and the Village of Trenton, Neb. were the remaining of the five finalists selected from entries across the nation. Each state rural water association hosts a state-wide drinking water test and the winners are eligible for entry in the nation-wide test.

The winners were chosen from a panel of judges, including, Dr. Andrew Sawyer, the Deputy Director of the EPA Office of Groundwater and Drinking Water; John Padalino, Administrator of the Rural utilities Service; Carlisle Clarke, a member of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committee staff; Lorene Wasland, a South Dakota resident and wife of NRWA board member Larry Wasland; and Brett Challenger from CoBank.

The NRWA holds the Great American Taste Test annually as part of the Rural Water Rally in Washington, D.C

NRWA Open 2013 Rural Water Rally

IMG_3635(crop)WASHINGTON, D.C. – Leaders of the National Rural Water Association opened the 2013 Rural Water Rally during a session held on February 12.

The opening session began with speeches from NRWA President Doug Anderton. Anderton emphasized the need to build relationships with new representatives and to continue emphasizing rural water’s grassroots message.

Senator Mark Pryor from Arkansas and Rural Utilities Services Acting Administrator John Padalino also spoke.

The opening session also include “Memories” with NRWA CEO Rob Johnson and John Montgomery. Both were involved early in NRWA’s development and both are planning to retire in the near future.

More updates, including video from the event, will be available at a later date.

Long Beach Township keeps water running after Sandy

LONG BEACH TOWNSHIP, N. J. – When Super Storm Sandy hit Long Beach Township in October, the small community was forced to deal with an incredible disaster.

“The first high tide was about three feet of water,” explained Michael Clark, an Assistant Water Plant Operations Specialist. “At that time we were still in pretty decent shape.”

The tide receded, though it had already knocked out power on the island. The township operates multiple water plants to supply clean drinking water to over 3,000 residents along the island. Those plants had natural gas generators that allowed them to remain operational after losing power.

Except the storm was only beginning.

“The second high tide was over four feet,” Clark said. “After that, it got pretty crazy.”

With Sandy approaching shore, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie issued a mandatory evacuation on October 28. With water and sewer staff facing evacuation, the township began to shut down all but two of its water plants. The Long Beach Township is located on Long Beach Island, a barrier island with ocean on one side and a bay on the other. A dune system covering roughly 18 miles of shore was all that protected the island from the on-coming storm.

“It destroyed the dune system, except for a short stretch where the Army Corps of Engineers had done some work,” Clark said.

The impact on the water systems was devastating.

“Our ocean-front distribution system was destroyed,” Clark said. “The storm pulled water mains out of the ground and tore them apart; it shredded fire hydrants.

“We had one well that went underwater and was contaminated by saltwater intrusion.”

Several buildings were damaged, though they remained standing, they were riddled with stress fractures and will have to be replaced or refurbished in the future.

The island was covered in sand and salt water, in some places up to five feet deep. Movement on the island was severely restricted, and many times the water and sewer crews had the only equipment that could move. The water and sand was so deep that even bulldozers struggled to make it through.

“We’d get calls at the police station that someone was trapped,” Clark said. “We’d drive our front-end loaders up to the front door and the people would ride in the scoop back to the station where the Army could evacuate them.”

“We chuckle about it now, but it was pretty nerve-wracking at the time.”

The crew began work immediately assessing and repairing the tangled water mains and replacing the hundreds of damaged services throughout the island.

“We were going house-to-house,” Clark explained. “There was water in a lot of crawl spaces and lots of downed power lines.”

The situation was so dangerous that several crew were electrocuted, though none seriously. “It was very dangerous, but thank God everyone made it home every day,” Clark said.

Roughly 30 Public Works and Water and Sewer employees worked for 35 straight days, most 12-20 hour days, to bring the system back on-line.

“Several of us started rewiring electrical to all the buildings,” Clark said.

Many of the buildings at the township’s water plants were constructed in the 1950’s and their electrical wiring was installed under the floor, too low to survive the storm surge.

Soon after the relief effort began, the island’s natural gas service had to be cut. Severe damage to the island’s natural gas lines created another potential hazard. Cutting off that service, though, eliminated the township’s natural gas generators.

The New Jersey Water Association helped located portable diesel generators for the plants when gas service to the island had to be cut, stopping the townships natural gas generators.

“We were able to help them get portable, diesel generators,” said NJWA Executive Director Rick Howlett.

“They were a big help,” Clark said.

NJWA Circuit Rider Dave Leister also helped work on compliance issues with the system, and helped get the two-week boil order lifted. The association, a member of the National Rural Water Association, also provided manpower, assisted in coordinating with state agencies, and even recreating critical paperwork for the utility.

“A lot of our paperwork was stored in filing cabinets,” Clark explained. “The storm dumped them upside down and the paperwork ended up destroyed or washed out into the ocean.”

“They were a big help coordinating with the state and the DEP, doing the legwork that allowed us to stay out in the field,” Clark added. “We would call them with a problem, and within a few minutes they would come back with a solution that would have taken one of our guys hours to organize.”

Now, the utility is mostly back to operations. There are a few connections that have to be repaired and the township is making plans for future repairs to damaged buildings.

“We just try to make each day a little better than the last day,” Clark said.

Duncan Receives APWA Award

MILDORD, Del. — The Delaware Chapter of the American Public Works Association has named Rick Duncan, the executive director of the Delaware Rural Water Association, as the Public Official of the Year in a ceremony in Dover.Duncan was recognized for his efforts in water operations specialist certification and training. He was lead efforts to create the nation’s first mobile training unit and the founding of an ASSE-certified Backflow prevention course at the DRWA Training Facility. Duncan was also recognized for his work as a water operations specialist, Selbyville Volunteer Fire Chief and Selbyville Town Councilman.