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Look Beyond the Plastic

By Mary White

Is plastic what Concord’s bottled water ban is all about? Sometimes a story is the best way to get to the core of an issue, especially if it is true as this one is. And this is the story of but one of the 75 communities in New England and upper state New York whose water is being taken for bottling.

In 2001 a man visited individual property owners in the towns of Nottingham and Barrington, New Hampshire and offered to buy their wetlands “back property”. A number of landowners asked why he wanted it since being wetlands it couldn’t be developed. He told some he liked to fish; to others he replied he was a conservationist. After buying 100 contiguous acres of wetlands he filed an application for a permit to bottle over 400,000 gallons of water a day from the local aquifer under the company name USA Springs, Inc.

Residents were already concerned that their wells were running low in the summer months. Citizens formed Save Our Groundwater (SOG) and organized to stop approval of the application. The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES) conducted extensive hearings which the public attended voicing their objections to this proposed taking of their local water resources. In 2003 the residents celebrated when DES rejected the application based on 27 scientific findings against the project.

But that was not the end of the story. The following year the people were dismayed when USA Springs, Inc. filed the same application and a permit was approved by DES with no explanation given. SOG and the two towns then appealed to the state Supreme Court which upheld the permit as what was allowed under existing law.

In 2008 USA Springs Inc. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. In the proceedings they revealed they had contracts to sell the water to the nation-state of Malta in Europe. This confirmed residents’ concerns that international trade agreements could impact the state’s jurisdiction over their local water supply.

According to SOG’s website “After a series of failed attempts to find funding to pull itself from bankruptcy, the federal bankruptcy court took control in August 2012 and converted the case to a Chapter 7 Liquidation bankruptcy. A court trustee is now in charge of the process and the public can hope for a bit more transparency than in the past.” Read the whole story at: http://www.saveourgroundwater.org/about/our-story.

So the heart of the matter is not the material or size of the container holding the water. Buying packaged water gives private water industries the funds to buy up yet another communities’ water, often in shady backroom deals. Look beyond the plastic to what is inside – water, a precious natural resource that should be kept in the public domain and under local jurisdiction rather than privately controlled for profit. Isn’t this a greater right to protect than our right to buy what we want regardless of what it does to other communities? Vote NO on Article 30 to respect the rights of all communities, including our own, to control their own local water supplies.

Mary White is a Concord resident and a member of the ConcordCAN! Steering Group.

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