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Which local water supply was tops in our blind taste test?
Taste Test

Which local water supply was tops in our blind taste test?

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It’s well-established how many Longview residents feel about their water — it stinks, it’s undrinkable, watch out for that class-action lawsuit — but what about outsiders?

A panel of five expert tasters, all from Kalama, gathered at The Daily News on Friday afternoon to blindly sip on water from five different sources in a completely unscientific experiment.

Why Kalama? Kalama residents should know good water: Experts at this year’s American Water Works Association conference last summer ranked Kalama water the best tasting in the United States.

The words “first-world problems” were tossed around our tasting table and the water was deemed drinkable, but in the end, they agreed they “wouldn’t choose” to live with the samples that they ranked the lowest.

And the taste and smell isn’t the same as living with the water, which has become infamous for leaving permanent streaks and spots on dishes, sinks, appliances and cars.

“You see that, you think, ‘I probably shouldn’t be drinking this,’ ” said taster Rosemary Siipola, a former local government planner.

Among the samples were bottles from the Highlands, the Olympic Addition, Columbia Height and the Old West Side in Longview, and one from Kalama. Samples were rated 1 to 10 for clarity, taste, smell and overall quality.

Kalama’s award-winning water didn’t win outright in the blind test — though it did receive the fewest negative comments.

Columbia Heights water was rated highest in every category but was called “flat-tasting.”

Olympic Addition water was deemed most offensive, with a chlorine smell and bad aftertaste.

Tasters weren’t told what they were drinking until they were done rating the samples.

They may have been biased in knowing, of course, the water has a bad reputation.

Port of Kalama Commissioner Randy Sweet, a retired hydrogeologist, tasted the water like a wine sample, sans spitting.

He detected at least slight chlorine on all but the Old West Side samples, which he rated highest.

Mary Putka pointed out that the longer the water sat — mere minutes in some cases — the more that chlorine became noticeable, especially in the Highlands water.

Sheri Sweet rated Highlands water the worst and put her own water supply behind the Columbia Heights sample.

Only Lesley Bombardier, a former director of the county’s Health and Human Services, was able to pick out her hometown water, ranking it the best with a “7” and the four other samples an overall 5-out-of-10 each.

Brooks Johnson covers Longview city government, Cowlitz PUD and Lower Columbia College for The Daily News. Reach him at 360-577-7828 or


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