Monday, May 3, 2010

Congratulations Concord, MA: Water wows and woes in and around the AfD national office

The big water news in the Boston area is that the water's not fit to drink, thanks to a busted pipe in the MWRA works that bring drinking water from the Quabbin Reservoir to more than 700,000 households in the city and surrounding suburbs.

But Concord, Mass., is making waves, too--voters banned the sales of drinking water in plastic bottles during their final night of Town Meeting last week. The ban kicks in January 1, 2011. Concord is the second known town on the planet, after Bundanoon, in rural Australia, to ban the sale of bottled water.

The petitioner for the ban, Jean Hill, stressed the waste generated by single-serving plastic water bottles, and noted that more than 100 cities and three states have already taken action to curb spending on bottled water.

"Selling water in plastic bottles is the triumph of perceived need over real need," said Hill, 82.

Concord selectmen recommended no action be taken on the measure at Town Meeting, because they doubted they had any legal power to enact a ban, which prompted resident and voter Bob Lawson to reply "Why don't we just pass it and then you can find out?"

The motion did pass, and according to AfD North Bridge chapter member Mary White, Hill was beaming at the result. Still, the ban is getting some criticism.

The town's attorney has said the town may run afoul of the dormant commerce clause as possibly discriminating against interstate commerce, and the vote is likely to get thrown out by the Attorney General's office. A selectman has objected to the potential costs of defending the ban in court. The Boston Globe quoted Joe Doss, president of the International Bottled Water Association, a trade association that represents bottlers, suppliers, and distributors, as saying “We obviously don’t think highly of the vote in Concord. Any efforts to discourage consumers from drinking water, whether tap water or bottled water, is not in the best interests of consumers. Bottled water is a very healthy, safe, convenient product that consumers use to stay hydrated.’’

Even Nick Guroff, communications director for Corporate Accountability International, of "Think Outside the Bottle" fame, seemed a little awed by the decision, according to a quote in the Concord Journal. "A ban is a big move," said Guroff, adding that the organization he represents only advocates for governmental and organizational actions. "It's not something we'd advocate on a broad level," Guroff said of the ban. However, another spokesperson for the group saw the ban as part of the general trend toward drinking less bottled water.

p.s. If you're wondering--Concord has its own wells, and isn't on the "boil order."

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