Despite Push From Environmentalists, Bottled Water Consumption Remains Ubiquitous

Bill Filed in Massachusetts to Ban State Government from Buying Bottled Water

Published On January 24, 2013 | By Hannah Ellsbury | Articles, News

Bottled water purchased with Massachusetts taxpayer dollars may soon dry up if a bill filed Friday by state Rep. Tom Sannicandro passes this legislative session.

Submitted hours before the filing deadline, the bill would prohibit state officials from using public money to buy bottled water for facilities where tap is safe to drink.

Water-Bottle-Ban

Sannicandro said the bill will help the environment as well as taxpayers’ wallets – both of which are of concern to conscientious Bay State residents.

The state in the past seven months has spent more than $300,000 on bottled water. On average, about a half-million dollars is dished out for bottled H2O annually, according to data from the Executive Office of Administration and Finance.

“They’ve got a great water supply; we shouldn’t be drinking bottled water there. And the other side is we save money for the government,” Sannicandro said.

The bill, H1175, grants exceptions for health reasons and emergency situations, such as a contaminated water supply.

The Ashland Democrat said he filed the bill after reading a Daily News story from Dec. 7 that detailed the hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars spent each year on bottled water for various state buildings and offices.

According to Opencheckbook.com, the state website that tracks government spending, the state buys bottled water and coolers from vendors including Nestle Waters North America Inc., Poland Spring Water and Atlas Water Systems, Inc.

Sannicandro said his staff estimates the state could save $600,000 to $2 million a year by kicking its bottled water habit.

“I agree this is something we should do,” Sannicandro said.

All public water supply systems in the state are regularly tested to ensure the water is safe to drink, said a Department of Environmental Protection spokesman.

Sannicandro said he has signed onto the bottle bill and other energy conservation measures, but never filed legislation of this kind before.

But another Massachusetts group has been pushing to eliminate government spending on bottled water for many years.

Erin McNally-Diaz of Corporate Accountability International, a Boston-based nonprofit, said her office worked with Sannicandro to draft the bill.

“This really is a common-sense bill. Massachusetts should be spending money on vital public services, and not on bottled water that assists just a handful of corporations, especially when we’re facing a $22.3 billion investment gap,” McNally-Diaz said.

This is the first time such legislation has been filed in Massachusetts, McNally-Diaz said, despite meetings Corporate Accountability has had with the governor’s office to push for the measure.

Vermont, Connecticut, New York, Colorado, Illinois and Maryland as well as countless cities, including Boston, have stopped purchasing bottled water for employees.

Since 2006, the group along with about 10,000 state residents, mayors, senators and more than 50 small businesses have called for Gov. Deval Patrick to make Massachusetts the seventh state to officially end public spending on bottled water.

Corporate Accountability, through work with labor and environmental groups, has found that each dollar invested in public water generates in the long term more than six dollars for the economy at large.

Closing the investment gap in public water infrastructure – which is nationally $23 billion per year – would generate $265.6 billion in economic activity across the country and create close to 1.9 million jobs during the next five years, McNally-Diaz said.

Other environmentalists and government watchdogs Friday also praised the bill.

Paul Craney, executive director of the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, said lawmakers like Sannicandro should go further and find other ways to trim the budget, especially as Patrick proposes sweeping transportation reform.

“Members in the Legislature should find ways to squeeze our budget and identify … savings that would help offset some of the costs associated with the governor’s very ambitious spending plan before we increase the state income tax rate,” he said by email.

The town of Concord on Jan. 1 became the first in the state to ban the sale of single-serving bottled water.

Concord resident Jill Appel, a strong supporter of that measure, Friday praised Sannicandro’s bill.

“I don’t think taxpayer money should be spent on bottled water, except in an emergency,” she said.

Environmentalists hail the ban, but businesses and bottled water companies are less than enthusiastic.

Appel said public water should be part of Patrick’s statewide infrastructure plan.

“I will be proud of Massachusetts if we’re able to do this,” she said.

[via MetroWest]

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