Judges rate Boykins tap water best in rural Virginia

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 3, 2008

BOYKINS—When Boykins Mayor Spier Edwards was told his town’s water was judged to be the tastiest, cleanest and

most drinkable

in Virginia, his face turned sour, as if he smelled the water many of his fellow residents complained about for years.

But for the record, forget lemonade and sweet tea this summer, and pick up a glass of Boykins’ tap water. In late March Boykins was named the winner of the Virginia Rural Water Association’s eighth annual Water Taste Contest.

The town, with its 675 residents, along with 13 other rural areas in Virginia, submitted a sample of water in a Mason jar. Samples were judged on clarity, smell and taste.

&uot;I’ve been all over the U.S., and it’s certainly the best whatever I’ve ever tasted,&uot; said Julien Johnson, director of Southampton County Public Utilities, who drew the sample of water from the Public Utilities Office on Pittman Road.

After winning the Virginia contest, a sample of Boykins water, which is drawn from a well and is free of fluoride, was sent off to Washington, D.C., for the National Rural Water Association’s Great American Water Taste Test on April 22.

The water was judged on clarity, bouquet and taste.

Alas, Boykins was not one of the top five finalists of the 38 states that submitted samples. Southampton, Mass., which also uses natural, untreated water, took first place. Southampton is a town of about 5,400 people located 100 miles west of Boston.

&uot;I can’t believe that we won it against so many entries, that a little town in Western Massachusetts could beat out the whole country, but we did,&uot; Joseph F. Slattery, Southampton’s water superintendent, told The Republican, a local newspaper.

Boykins Mayor Edwards said he was surprised when he first heard about the Boykins victory. Before he was elected mayor, Edwards was part of a concerned citizens group that fielded many of the complaints about the smell and taste of Boykins water, as well as the poor condition of many of the fire hydrants around town, including one in front of the fire station that simply did not work.

Since Southampton County took over supplying Boykins water some 30 years ago, Edwards said he believes the system has improved, and called the recent recognition a great &uot;honor&uot; for Boykins.

&uot;I feel like we have good water, but on occasion you get a smell,&uot; he said. &uot;I don't have a problem with the taste.&uot;

According to Edwards, Johnson said that the smell comes from the chlorine treatment the water must undergo because of a bacteria build-up in pipes — especially in the far reaches of the pumping system where water might not be circulated as well.

It is not, Edwards said, because of the quality of water.

Johnson said that a water filter would resolve issues with smell.

&uot;It’s not 100 percent, but it’s getting there,&uot; Edwards said.

He also said that filter systems will be made available to Boykins’ residents by the county, but a plan has not been finalized.

Edwards said he intends to re-issue a survey to town residents asking to discover and address any remaining problems.