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Water bottle ban proposed for Mass. government offices

Amid calls to shrink government spending and increase focus on sustainability, a bill was filed Friday that would prevent Massachusetts state funds from being used for bottled water.

State Rep. Tom Sannicandro, from the seventh Middlesex District, who filed the bill, said the Commonwealth needs to recommit to public water supplies.

“There is no reason we should spend taxpayer’s money on a product that is unnecessary, expensive and harmful to the environment when there are clean and cheap alternatives,” he said in a statement.

According to the Massachusetts Executive office of Administration and Finance, the state has spent about $300,000 on bottled water in the past seven months. It is projected that about $500,000 will be spent annually to this same end.

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection reported that all public water supply systems in the Commonwealth are regularly tested to ensure the water is safe for consumption.

Sannicandro said the Operational Services Committee calculated about $1.4 million is spent annually by the state on bottled water contracts.

“It is important that we lead by example and do our best to reduce bottle waste and save the Commonwealth money,” he said in a statement.

Corporate Accountability International, an organization that advocates for community water rights, also works to promote the idea of lessening disposable water bottle consumption.

Grace Morris, spokeswoman for CAI said in an email statement that the organization is very invested in greatly reducing the amount of bottled water consumed.

“The movement is really to educate the public about the problems associated with bottled water, to protect community water rights, reduce taxpayer spending on bottled water and reinvest in the tap,” she said.

Erin McNally-Diaz, also with CAI, worked with Sannicandro on the bill, the first of its kind in Massachusetts.

“This really is a common-sense bill,” she said in a statement. “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.”

According to the CAI, since 2006 many state residents, as well as mayors, senators and small businesses have asked Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick to make the Commonwealth the seventh state to stop public spending on bottled water.

Concord became the first municipality in the U.S. to take the first step by banning the purchase of single-serve disposable water bottles Jan. 1, town officials said.

Anita Tekle, Concord town clerk, said the switch sent a message about pollution.

“The message is to make a statement and to decrease the amount of environmental pollution we are contributing,” she said.  “We have been very lucky here in Concord, we do have very good water. Why should you have to drink it out of a plastic bottle?”

The idea of banning the purchase of disposable water bottles in Concord was first introduced in 2010 by long-time Concord resident Jean Hill, 85, with the help of another Concord resident Jill Appel.

“People who don’t understand this — how dangerous it is to be abusing our planet with frivolous things like drinking water in plastic bottles — we don’t need that,” Hill said. “And to have global warming resulting from this frivolous product is a disgrace. Any citizen who has a brain in his or her head should fight to do whatever he or she can to help our planet be safe for our children, grandchildren and all the people coming after us.”

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