Strange twist in the water bottle debate |

Strange twist in the water bottle debate

Scott CondonAspen, CO Colorado

BASALT As a national campaign targeting the environmental impact of the bottled water industry gains steam, the Basalt town government has bucked the trend and quietly turned off its tap.

Plastic water bottles were once taboo in Town Hall, but town officials resumed providing bottled water for meetings earlier this year.Former Councilwoman Anne Freedman convinced the town government about two years ago to stop buying bottled water for its meetings. Pitchers of water and paper cups were set on tables as an alternative.The problem with bottled water goes beyond the creation of so many used containers, Freedman said Monday. The production of the bottles and the distribution of the bottled water takes a heavy environmental toll.”It’s just an unbelievable waste of resources,” Freedman said.Bottled water has become a popular environmental cause after the industry’s explosive growth this decade. San Francisco’s mayor caused a stir Thursday by banning the city and county government from purchasing bottled water. The move was part of the city’s effort to limit its contribution to global warming.Environmentalists say millions of gallons of crude oil are required each year to produce bottles for the water Americans purchase. Billions of plastic water bottles end up in landfills each year.

Basalt reversed its policy earlier this year with no public explanation. Town Manager Bill Efting said Monday that the reason for the switch was health concerns. Town Hall has a small water heater, he said, so there was uncertainty that the pitchers were getting clean in the dishwasher.Rather than risk someone getting sick, the town switched back to plastic bottles of water.The switch isn’t an endorsement of plastic water bottles, according to Efting: “It’s the lesser of two evils,” he said.Efting also noted that officials in Town Hall recycle their plastic bottles religiously so they eliminate one of the concerns. “I don’t think it gets us off the hook,” he admitted.He was aware of the growing movement against the bottled water industry and said the town might have to reconsider its policy.

Mayor Leroy Duroux has consistently been a proud proponent of using Basalt’s high-quality water rather than water bottled and brought in from elsewhere. However, he said the town government was forced to switch when it couldn’t clean the water pitchers adequately. He agreed that it might be necessary to revisit the decision.Councilman Glenn Rappaport said he will go with the flow on the issue. He said he will drink water from bottles or from pitchers. He suggested that council members could bring their own containers to drink from during meeting, then take them home and clean them themselves – eliminating the need for bottled water or pitchers.Freedman wants the town to find some type of creative solution. The concern over dirty pitchers sounds “lame,” she said.”Nobody died in the year and a half while we were doing it,” she said. “How much do you really need to wash a water pitcher?”Scott Condon’s e-mail address is

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