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Latest water competition for Kane County leaves this judge gushing

Sheriff PPerez Casey Crosby taste water samples agabreak this
year's tie. | Denise Crosby~Sun-Times Media

Sheriff Pat Perez Casey Crosby taste water samples again to break this year's tie. | Denise Crosby~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 21, 2014 11:23AM

It was an interesting thing, really.

I got home Thursday afternoon from judging the area’s best local water for the Kane County Water Association — and immediately downed a huge glass of water.

An hour later, I filled another cup and drank it slowly, deliberately.

Am not sure if you agree, but most of us take our water for granted. I know I did. Until I agreed to be part of this panel sponsored by the Kane County Water Association — made up of water operators, public works employees and industry representatives — to choose which municipality in Kane County is the best of the best.

Oh the intensity. The pressure. The anticipation.

“Let’s get to it,” said fellow judge Kane County Sheriff Pat Perez.

“This is serious stuff,” said fellow judge Casey Crosby, a pitcher for the Detroit Tigers who also happens to be my son. “Lives could be changed forever.”

Or at least for the year, which is how long the winning municipality — which will represent the county in March at the state level in Springfield — gets bragging rights.

The judging at this annual taste-testing luncheon was not as easy as I thought it would be. For the most part, we’ve got some mighty good water here in the county. Nine beakers of room temperature water, labeled only with letters, sat before us: Our mission: to rate them on clarity, odor and, of course, taste.

The first two categories were easy: There’s not a lot of differences in the smell of our local water, even less on clearness. Most got high marks. There were, however, subtle but distinct taste differences. Some samples had a hint of iron, others of chlorine. But taste, of course, is subjective. Plus, we all get used to a certain kind of water. And I can honestly say, had I done the test all over again, I may have come up with different results.

The ball player took forever, tasting and smelling the samples over and over, taking deep whiffs, swirling the water around his mouth as if it were fine wine.

The sheriff, probably no surprise here, attacked the task aggressively. Pour water. Taste water. Rank water. The Crosbys were pikers in comparison.

“If this is the hardest decision I have to make today,” said Perez, “then I’m lucky.”

In the end, our combined rankings resulted in a tie. Which meant we had to put down our forks of tasty chicken and beef so we could take additional swigs of water from samples E and J.

Our unanimous choice to unseat reigning champ Montgomery? Aurora.

That decision made a big splash with Bob Leible, associate superintendent of water production for the city, as well as Trent Huber, operations supervisor, and the table full of other Aurora employees.

“We had won a few years in a row, but it’s been a while,” said an obviously proud Leible. “It’s good to be back in the groove.”

Aurora, like Elgin, uses a combination of water from the Fox River and deep and shallow wells. A variety of processes — softening, reverse osmosis and nanofiltration — are used to come up with the liquid you get when you turn on the faucet.

Which brings me back to all that water I drank after coming home from drinking all that water at the judge’s table.

One thing I came away with: There are a lot of “unsung heroes,” as KCWA secretary Bill Balluff describes them, who work hard to give us the water we all take for granted. Which is why I’ve made another winning decision on Thursday.

To drink more of it.

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