Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

MWA ends up dry in contest, but still may have best tasting water

Macon Water Authority was selected for having Georgia’s Best Tasting Drinking Water, but missed the international competition
Liz Fabian
MWA’s Director of Water Services Gary McCoy, right, explains to the board how the entry for “Best of the Best” tap water in North America got stuck in Canadian customs and missed the competition.

After the Macon Water Authority was selected for having the Best Tasting Drinking Water in North America in 2009, board members and employees were thirsty for another international victory in Canada last month.

In April, MWA bested about two dozen utilities in its local district, and then took the state’s top prize at the Georgia Association of Water Professionals meeting to represent the state in the continental competition which includes utilities in Mexico, Canada and Puerto Rico.

MWA leadership was excited about the possibility of bringing back the “Best of the Best” Water Taste Test trophy from the American Water Works Association.

“There’s a lot of pressure on me,” MWA Water Operations Director Gary McCoy told board members Thursday night.

McCoy not only was at the helm when MWA won the state honors in 2009 and Georgia’s “People’s Choice” Award in 2015, but he was working in Cartersville in 1999 when that city won Georgia’s first drinking water competition.

MWA didn’t win this year’s title, but they didn’t lose either. The MWA sample was held up in Canadian customs and missed the competition along with nine other entries.

“I know the disappointment,” McCoy told the authority at its first meeting since the Torontobased convention.

He explained that the AWWA’s instructions called for shipping six, one-liter samples of the same treated drinking water delivered to customers. The bottles had to arrive at Toronto’s Enercare Centre Exhibition Place on Thursday, June 8 or Friday, June 9. 

Shipping the package through FedEx’s next-day air seemed to be the way to go.

“It’s a slippery slope,” McCoy explained. “If we would have sent that earlier, if it would have gotten there before Thursday they would have thrown the sample out.”

When MWA mailed the package June 7, FedEx Tracking showed it was scheduled for delivery in Toronto between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. on June 8.

That Thursday, MWA got an alert that the package wasn’t going to be delivered until Friday, which would have still met the deadline.

In reality, the package made it to Mississauga, Ontario, just after 11 a.m. on June 9 but sat in customs for days.

Two hours before the July 23 competition, the MWA delegation got excited when they heard the sample cleared customs. They scrambled for a courier, but it was too late.

The package didn’t arrive until the next day, long after the team from Miramichi, New Brunswick, Canada, hoisted the “Best of the Best” trophy and Emporia, Kansas, took top honors in the “People’s Choice” competition decided by the convention participants.

Professional judges decide the “Best of the Best” and one of them was disqualified after he was seen drinking coffee before the competition, McCoy said. The contest is serious business for the thousands of members of the AWWA.

“It was disappointing we didn’t’ get a chance to compete,” MWA Chairman Gary Bechtel said.

District 1’s Anissa Jones Akin asked if there was a chance that MWA could be allowed to compete next year without capturing the state title again.

McCoy said the AWWA competition organizer said that might be possible.

“Can we get it in writing?” District 4’s Frank Patterson asked.

District 3’s Dwight Jones, who is a pilot, offered to fly the samples to Canada himself next time.

McCoy said that it would be several years before the gathering will be held again in Canada as the 2024 AWWA Convention is scheduled for Anaheim, California.

MWA leadership is already planning strategy for next year.

Macon-Bibb Commissioners Valerie Wynn who represents the county on the authority wasn’t ready to concede defeat.

“I still say we have the best drinking water,” Wynn said.

Civic Journalism Senior Fellow Liz Jarvis Fabian covers Macon-Bibb County government entities and can be reached at [email protected] or 478-301-2976.

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