Showing posts with label water. Show all posts
Showing posts with label water. Show all posts

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Silencing Spring: WWRD

First Pulished September 2008 in the Montague Reporter

In her 1962 publication, Silent Spring, Rachel Carson wrote about a spring in the near future potentially silenced by “indiscriminate use of pesticides,” with names like DDT, lindane, aldrin and mirex. What she didn’t write about back then, are the now infamous perfluorinated chemicals used in nonstick and waterproof surfaces, the polybrominated flame retardants that are infused into textiles and plastics, or the triclosan and triclocarban antibacterials in soaps, toothpastes and a range of consumer goods. Back then, no one knew that these chemicals used primarily in consumer products, would eventually find their way into not only you, but also your neighbor, and your neighbor’s neighbor, and, depending on the chemical possibly their uncle in Alaska and definitely the polar bear that just roamed through your neighbor’s neighbor’s uncle’s town.

Instead, Carson chronicled what in retrospect seems obvious now, but clearly wasn't back then. That spraying long-lasting (and by long - I mean decades) chlorinated chemicals like DDT, which accumulate in the fat and are designed to be toxic, on farms, suburbs, even cities just wasn’t smart. But if her expose seems obvious now, then why almost fifty years later are scientists finding, in addition to the remnants of chlorinated pesticides banned years ago, industrial fluorinated and brominated chemicals in water, sediments, wildlife and in humans? And why is one of the “next generation,” shorter lived, barely-bioaccumulative pesticides, atrazine, turning up in surface and groundwater supplies across the nation?

There is no doubt that the publication of Silent Spring wakened the American public to the very real consequences of “better living through chemistry.”

“I was in 8th or 9th grade,” recalls my neighbor Jeff, “and learned about it from the mainstream media. It had a pretty big impact – it started to frame the way you looked at things. I remember kayaking down the Connecticut. It was disgusting. But,” he conceded, “none of us were really sure what to do about these things.”

Barely a year old at the time of publication, and not cognizant of books except maybe as suitable teething material, I don’t recall its publication or the impact it had on my suburban life, although I do recall tanker trucks trundling along our road, spraying for mosquitoes and gypsy moths; the shelf in the garage full of bottles and spray cans that my father used to combat whatever ailed his beloved trees and shrubs; and, befitting my current occupation, I recall mixing up my own toxic potions – from cleaning materials stashed under the sink or in the laundry room, and testing them out on the earwigs and carpenter ants that raced along our swing set. Unlike Jeff, I was clueless.

Thankfully, there were plenty of folks who were neither clueless, nor baffled about what could be done to avert the impending environmental disaster described so elegantly by Ms. Carson. Eight years after Silent Spring, the US Environmental Protection Agency, the primary body responsible for registration, release and management of chemicals was born.

Of the December 2, 1970 launch of the agency Jack Lewis, writing for EPA Journal noted, “…Surely no factor was more pivotal in the birth of EPA than decades of rampant and highly visible pollution. But pollution alone does not an agency make. Ideas are needed--better yet a whole world view--and many environmental ideas first crystallized in 1962. That year saw the publication of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring….In fact, EPA today may be said without exaggeration to be the extended shadow of Rachel Carson. The influence of her book has brought together over 14,000 scientists, lawyers, managers, and other employees across the country to fight the good fight for "environmental protection."”

That’s an impressive legacy. But sometimes, I wonder what Ms. Carson would think of her legacy today?

Reading Silent Spring for the first time (I am ashamed to admit), it’s unsettling that nearly fifty years later, albeit on a different scale, Carson’s writing is still relevant. I don’t mean the the details – I think for anyone who didn’t live through those times – or who doesn’t live near farms where aerial spaying is still used – the events Carson described are hard to imagine. It’s been over thirty years since DDT fell from the sky like snow, and “housewives” swept pellets from their front steps or washed the stuff out of their kids’ hair, and the death of so many songbirds suggested a bleak future.

No doubt, we are all better off thanks to the EPA’s slew of chemical regulations and policies, but on a different scale, pesticides and industrial chemicals continue to contaminate water, consumer products, wildlife and us. And scientists, rather than focusing on lethality and reproductive success are now measuring more subtle changes in wildlife like altered reproductive function and development. The perfluorinated and polybrominated chemicals provide examples of history repeating itself – even with regulations in place. Sometimes chemicals slip by because scientists haven’t figured out how to measure them in the environment. Sometimes they slip by because no one expected them to be there, and sometimes they slip by because the industry that produced and released them didn’t provide all the relevant data. But thanks to greater collective environmental awareness ( by consumers, activists, scientists, policy makers and even industry), unlike DDT, it won’t take over a decade to phase-out fluorinated and brominated chemicals – phase-outs for these chemicals are already in progress.

But then there’s Atrazine. The top selling herbicide in the United States, banned by the European Union in 2003, atrazine is an example of a “new and improved” pesticide gone awry. Applied primarily to corn, with minor uses including lawns and golf courses, the EPA estimates that roughly 73 million of pounds of atrazine are applied to crops each year. Compared with the longevity of the chlorinated pesticides like DDT atrazine lasts for merely a blink in time with a half-life 146 days or so (although in these more enlightened days even that’s considered long-lived.) Unfortunately once Atrazine works its way into ground water it may last for years. The result? In the midwest, Atrazine is one of the most commonly detected contaminants in surface and groundwater, additionally it’s been detected although to a lesser extent in groundwater in the Northeast, including Massachusetts. Though detected concentrations often fall well below EPA’s 3 part-per-billion drinking water standards, there are a growing number of studies suggesting that other species, particularly amphibians may be susceptible to much lower concentrations.

University of California, Berkely researcher Tyrone Hayes reported back in 2003 that exquisitely low concentrations of atrazine, as low as 0.1 ppb, altered the steroid hormone balance in frogs, feminizing male frogs and resulting in hermaphrodism and demasculization of the vocal cords. And just recently, Krista McCoy and others, publishing in Environmental Health Perspectives, reported a link between hectares of farmland and feminization in local frogs. Although the authors didn’t measure specific pesticides, among the suspects is atrazine. All this got me wondering – where’s our EPA? Atrazine was recently up for reregistration, an opportunity for EPA to review data accrued over the years since a pesticide is first registered. For atrazine that was 1958. This was well before scientists were clued in to subtle reproductive and developmental impacts caused by small concentrations of chemicals. Nor was consideration given back then, and only rarely now, to the reality that seldom are individuals or wildlife exposed to single chemicals. We are all exposed to complex mixtures of contaminants released by industry, agriculture and from consumer products like soaps, sunscreens and pharmaceuticals.

Surely, I thought, given the pervasive groundwater contamination and the recent data on frogs, atrazine’s registration if not revoked would at least be restricted. At the very least maybe the allowable environmental concentrations (the “chronic criterion”) would be reduced below those found to impact amphibians? Unable to find the appropriate numbers on EPA’s website, I emailed EPA. “We anticipate this chronic criterion, when finalized later next year, will fall within the range of 10 to 20 ug/l [ppb]” wrote Frank Gostomski of EPA’s Health and Ecological Criteria Division. I asked if Hayes’ studies had been included. Yes, was the answer. But if Hayes’ studies hold up to scientific scrutiny –and there seems to be a growing body of literature that suggests that they do - then EPA’s concentrations are way higher than those found to feminize male frogs.

Though hard to imagine in our own backyard where spring peepers and cluckers keep us awake, is it possible that some day thanks once again to “indiscriminate use of pesticides” spring could still be silenced?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Anti antimicrobials - time to get serious about triclosan and triclocarban

I thought I was “antibacterial” savvy. For years I’ve read labels on antiperspirants and soaps before tossing them into the shopping cart. It wasn’t until I joined a consumer products working group, whose current focus is the dynamic duo of antibacterials, triclosan and triclocarbon, that I found I should also be checking my toothpaste. That’s right, listed right there on the ingredients for Colgate toothpaste was triclosan.

So why the outrage, what’s so bad about these products? Most experts including physicians groups and an FDA panel agree that these antibacterials, originally used in hospitals, aren’t really necessary for the average consumer. Unless there’s a reason to be ultra-clean, there’s nothing like a good hand washing with plain old soap.

Then there are the environmental implications of washing this stuff down the drain. As discussed a while back on this site, these chemicals tend to make their way through sewage treatment plants, persisting in soil and water. But that’s not all folks. Back when I wrote about antimicrobials I focused on the release and impact of these things into the environment. But now I read that triclosan is detectable in breast milk. And although the author concludes that concentrations are below those that might be cause for concern, here we have a chemical that 1) doesn’t seem to do much good 2) gets into the environment and stays there and 3) gets into breast milk. Hmmm.

The breast milk study, by A.D. Dayan, found “No triclosan was detected in 2 samples, it was barely detectable in 9 and the concentration ranged from about 100 to about 2100 μg/kg lipid in the other 51 milk samples.” With the majority of samples testing positive it’s curious that Dayan ponders the results, adding the following “caveats” for how and why these samples might contain the antibacterial:

"Possible contamination at the time of collection.• For example, might the mother have used a triclosan-containing soap to wash her breasts shortly before donating the milk? When did she last use a medicated deodorant, dentifrice or dusting powder?• Was the milk sample collected early or late in lactation after parturition because the body’s fat stores change with time, possibly affecting systemic exposure to any lipophilic material stored in fat?• When was the sample collected in each episode of lactation, i.e. was it ‘fore-milk’, which is more watery, or a later, hind-milk sample with a higher fat content?• Was the sample collected after a period during which the mother had not breast fed or expressed milk? Even a necessarily brief period without milk expression may make the first sample of milk then obtained more concentrated than usual.”

Skepticism is fine – what would science be without some healthy skepticism. But in this case I can’t help but be skeptical in the opposite direction – if there’s no clear benefit of the stuff – why risk exposing the most vulnerable population? Besides none of these caveats lessen the implication that breast fed infants of these women would likely be exposed at some point.

Now, a study by Bruce Hammock (from the University of California, Davis) and others, published in Environmental Health Perspectives suggest that use of these products may in fact, do more harm than good. Reporting that while triclocarban enhanced activation of steroid hormone dependent genes, triclosan was found to be antagonistic in assays designed to evaluate interaction with steroid hormone dependent activity, the authors suggest caution when it comes to triclosan and triclocarbon concluding:

“These observations have potentially significant implications with regard to human and animal health since exposure may be directly through dermal contact or indirectly through the food chain. These screening studies revealed that further investigations into the biological and toxicological effects of TCC [triclocarban], its cabanilide analogs, and TCS [triclosan] are urgently needed."

Perhaps one route, rather than relying on the consumer to read, read, read is to encourage producers to remove the stuff - or to encourage the EPA to cancel all non-medical uses - which is exactly what several environmental and public health organizations are suggesting according to an article in Water and Wastewater News.

But for now, until their campaigns are successful, it’s time to take cleanliness into our own hands and keep reading those labels.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Flush with drugs: a new database for common pharmaceuticals provides insight into surface water contaminantion

A while back I wrote about the “drugs down the drain” program, targeted primarily at those with unused drugs who might decide to tip those bottles of old aspirin, or unused antibiotics. Yes, yes, I know – there should be no such thing since we’re all told to complete the course. But – there have been times when amoxicillin just didn’t cut it. Those times when the kids’ ears still screamed with pain and a visit to the docs office leads to a mid-course correction - a stronger antibiotic– leaving a half-full bottle of the pink stuff in our fridge.

In these cases it’s important to dispose of the stuff properly – so they don’t end up medicating everything downstream. But what about the pain-killers, heart drugs, antidepressants, antibiotics, gastrointestinal aids that we (and here I’m using the royal WE) take daily? What happens to them when we, pardon the expression, pee?

According to a recent review (introducing a new database) by Emily Cooper and others, just published in Science of the Total Environment, “…between 30 and 90% of an administered dose of many pharmaceuticals ingested by humans is excreted in the urine as the active substance…” and “…up to 90% of drug residues may remain in effluent after [sewage] treatment…”

Although the fact that flushed drugs end up in local streams, rivers and estuaries isn’t new to me – these numbers are astounding. Just imagine if we could reclaim all those drugs. Why - in our school district that might just pull us out of the fiscal hell we've been experiencing for the past decade! And aside from all that waste (though it makes you wonder if pharmaceutical companies design them that way,) once they're in the water - they're no longer beneficial, but rather, environmental contaminants.

But wait – the astute reader (perhaps one of my astute students) might say. What about dose? Certainly the stuff gets diluted, certainly the local trout are not exposed to therapeutic doses of valium or Tylenol? Certainly not. But as the authors point out, several studies now show that chronic exposures to low concentrations can adversely impact aquatic organisms. And, don’t forget – that the Tylenol that I might send over to the local treatment plant will mix with my neighbor’s kid’s antibiotics, and the psychotherapeutics of another neighbor and …you get the picture. There’s a little bit of a whole lot of stuff going down all of our drains collectively.

So what to do with a problem so pervasive? Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize. Fortunately Cooper and co-authors introduce a new, fairly user-friendly database called “Pharmaceuticals in the Environment, Information for Assessing Risk” or PEIAR that will allow researchers and others to do just this.

After a quick tour, I found the site easy to navigate, and easy to track back to original sources, and full of useful information. However, since I’ve made a career of avoiding risk assessment I can’t comment on its utility to risk assessors. I’ll leave that to the pros.

Check it out at

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

What’s in Your Fav Five? Five top contaminants

I’d been blabbing away for the past hour or so about chemical contaminants, imparting my imperfect knowledge upon my seven brilliant college students.

“So, what do you think are the five most important contaminants?” asked Beth, my student who has been investigating atrazine, one of the most ubiquitous pesticides in this country.

I was speechless. “Um..” I wavered, “well….” I pondered, before finally copping-out with “that’s a really good question.”

“I guess that’ll be my assignment,” I grimaced, “but I’m not sure I’d be able to come up with just one list.” Although it seemed a fair if not daunting assignment, since I’d been asking them to stretch their brains all semester, I’m guessing if you asked ten toxicologists for their “Fav-Five” they’d come up with at least twenty different lists.

As with anything in toxicology, there are some basic questions about exposure, toxicity, how the stuff behaves in the environment, and who’s most at greatest risk? For example, we might use some pretty nasty stuff to clean our ovens, paint our toenails or kill rats but we might not expose ourselves to concentrations that are of concern (though that might be debatable), unless we drink them.

Then there’s toxicity. Does it cause cancer? Impair reproduction? Contribute to the development of asthma? Which is worse? Or maybe it’s more insidious, as one of my students, Liz, revealed about a group of fragrances, used in more consumer products that I can name, called synthetic musks. Some of these compounds impair the ability of our cells to spit out foreign chemicals. Finally, there’s the question of how the chemical behaves in the environment, and in us. Does it accumulate? Do we metabolize it? Does it seep into water? Is it spewed into the air? And this is just considering human toxicity. Finally there’s the ‘at risk’ question. Are we talking most problematic for humans? The Environment? Wildlife?

My brain was off in all directions. There are just too many variables. Even David Letterman hasn’t attempted at top-ten list for chemical contaminants I checked.

But I already copped-out once. I couldn’t do it again. So I did some academic soul-searching (A.K.A: A Google Search).

Maybe there are some existing lists that hordes of experts, policy makers and regulators have already developed? But no such luck (although please correct me if I’m wrong. I’d love to see one.) Then I dared write to representatives from USGS and EPA’s Office of Water, but got no response other than a boiler plate answer from the EPA's press office assuring me that in addition to protecting us from acute problems like pathogens, "EPA is concerned that water systems protect their sources of drinking water, address replacement of aging infrastructure, have properly trained operators, and charge sufficient rates to ensure that they have the revenue needed to provide access to safe drinking water."

So for better or worse it seems I’m on my own (with help from the universe of information available on the web – and these are in no particular order – they are about as random as my selection process,) though I’d love to see a poll of those in various fields to see what they’d come up with, here goes – not in any particular order:

1) Arsenic is linked to many different types of cancer, and occurs naturally in soil and water (and may occur in drinking water). It's a chemical once used widely as a pesticide. As a result it may be found in the neighborhood playground (arsenic is one of a triumvirate of metals in CCA or chromated copper arsenate,) or contaminate the soil of old fruit orchards (and elsewhere) thanks to its effectiveness as a pesticide. In terms of large scale environmental release, mining industries – like the Newmont Mining Corporation, in Nevada which describes itself as one of the leading gold companies in the world - may be most important. According to Scorecard a site originally created by Environmental Defense (and now "owned" by Green Media) that digests and synthesizes EPA’s Toxic Resource Inventory into a more readable format, arsenic is the number one cancer concern, and Newmont releases almost 300 millions pounds of arsenic a year into the surrounding environment.

Arsenic also tops the Agency for Toxic Substances Disease Registry Top 20 List which is based on contaminants most commonly found at National Priority List or Superfund sites and which are considered most important in terms of potential for exposure and potential for causing adverse health effects.

Finally, in 2002, the EPA dropped the drinking water standard from 50 part-per-billion (ppb) down to 10 ppb, after considering even lower standards of 3 and 5 ppb.

2) Lead. This is not only important as a neurotoxic contaminant now because it exists in old house paint and other paint (e.g. on old peeling highway bridges), courtesy of the lead industry who once encouraged Americans to paint their houses with white lead, and advertised, yes actually advertised that “Lead Takes Part in Many Games,” (see Deceit and Denial for some fascinating reading,) but it’s also in our water having been used for pipes and solder. The EPA estimates that twenty percent of human lead exposure is the result of contaminated drinking water. Lead also tops NRDC’s Scorecard for number one, non-carcinogenic contaminant, this time thanks in part to Red Dog Ops in Alaska, another mining company.

Several years back, as a pregnant mother of a toddler, I dutifully tested the window sills of our new 1860’s home for lead paint – when the hardware store lead-test stick turned a shade of hot-pink I hadn’t seen since the psychedelic ‘70s. I immediately (and maybe not so wisely) purchased some gel non-toxic stripper and scraped away. Sometimes we do dumb things. And sometimes we just don’t learn. Maybe we will this time around.

Here’s a little ditty I found on EPA’s site:

Hence gout and stone afflict the human race;
Hence lazy jaundice with her saffron face;
Palsy, with shaking head and tott'ring knees.
And bloated dropsy, the staunch sot's disease;
Consumption, pale, with keen but hollow eye,
And sharpened feature, shew'd that death was nigh.
The feeble offspring curse their crazy sires,
And, tainted from his birth, the youth expires.
(Description of lead poisoning by an anonymous Roman hermit,
Translated by Humelbergius Secundus, 1829)

3) Priority Air Pollutants. Air is not my field, but no top-five list can be complete without at least a few air pollutants. These include particulate matter - released by power plants, motor vehicles, (especially older diesel vehicles), and some factories; ground-level ozone (primarily from motor vehicles and industry), carbon monoxide (from burning fossil fuel), sulfur oxides (fuel again, particularly coal burning plants), nitrogen oxides (yup, burning fuel again) and finally lead (again – so now you see it’s a double assault.)

We’ve all heard how asthma rates are going up. At least a few of those pollutants listed above aggravate asthma, and are known to cause or aggravate other respiratory conditions (for a historical perspective on the killing smog of Donora Pennsylvania, When Smoke Ran Like Water is a sobering read)

Although thanks to the Clean Air Act, smoke no longer runs like water, it’s still a pervasive pollutant, as anyone with a respiratory condition will tell you. As a parent who watched her asthmatic toddler’s every breath, and then watched as he bounced off the walls following massive doses of Ventolin (he’s thankfully grown out of it), I cannot imagine living in fear of the air. But people do, every day, and it’s criminal. Unfortunately, unlike water, until the sources clean up their act, there is no choice when faced with contaminated air (except perhaps, to visit one of those oxygen bars.)

4) Trichloroethylene, the “miracle” solvent of the twentieth century. I don’t know of too many contaminants that have their own blog, except for TCE (there’s also a very active TCE list serve run by Lenny Siegel, director for Center for Public Environmental Oversight). Though it may or may not reflect the importance of this developmental immuno - , neuro – (basically you name it) toxic and potentially carcinogenic contaminant, it does reveal the importance of this chemical. According to the EPA, TCE is present in 60% of their National Priority (NPL) or Superfund sites around the country, not to mention all the tens of thousands non-NPL sites contaminated with TCE as a result of past industrial, military, small business, or legal and illegal dumping. TCE not only contaminates water – including drinking water, but, depending on the depth of the water table and soil conditions, TCE vapors from contaminated ground water can and have intruded into homes, businesses and schools. Several years back, a class of mine worked with residents in North Adams, MA – a town where seventeen houses were bought-out and razed because of concerns about TCE vapor intrusion.

5) Bisphenol-A. Actually, I don’t know that anyone might consider this one a top-five, though it’s certainly among the top-five in “Buzz.” Bisphenol A is one of those seemingly all too-common estrogenic plasticizers. As we’ve all heard by now, this is the stuff that leaches from polycarbonate bottles – including those colorful Nalgene bottles that college students carry around (to make a statement about their environmental mindfulness) baby bottles, metal can linings, and even tooth sealants. Way back when, in the dark ages of 1993, when the realization that very small amounts of chemicals could really tweak developing reproductive systems was just dawning, the EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) stated, “The developmental toxicity of bisphenol A has been adequately investigated. Confidence in the RfD, therefore, is high.” Consequently the EPA set the “Reference Dose,” an amount considered as safe, at 50 parts per billion per day. Recent studies now suggest concentrations nearing this reference dose may cause reproductive and developmental toxicity. Bisphenol A now contaminates rivers, streams, with unknown impacts on wildlife, and because of its use in consumer products, its in us as well, at concentrations nearing the EPA reference dose.

Phew. That about does it for me, I now submit to class for grading. Comments, corrections, additions and subtractions are welcome.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Back to the Tap

The following article about Nestle's interest in our local water isn't my usual entry, but after noticing that the moderate sized tanker truck I was following down Route 2 in Massachusetts, was carrying none other than "Water," my stomach turned as a I imagined a future of similar "Water" trucks, removing water from one town, selling it to another, all for corporate profit.

So, I am posting this, with hopes that it will encourage citizens around the country to keep close tabs on their own water - before it's sold off - and to consider getting their drinking water (whenever possible) the "old fashioned way" - from the tap.

(Reprinted from The Montague Reporter)

This week, Nestle Water North America announced it was suspending its plan to explore the aquifir below the Montague Plains as the source for a potential water bottling plant in our community. So it seems Montague residents won’t be paying $2 a bottle to purchase our own pure Montague Plains water, at least not from Nestle, and at least not in the near future.

But that’s no reason to let down our guard. That was the message from Tuesday evening’s meeting held by the Montague Alliance to Protect our Water. Following a detailed “tour” of water flow in the plains, and the aquifer below, hydrogeologist Nancy Caffall (formerly with the state Department of Environmental Protection,) noted that “this kind of formation is particularly attractive for bottling companies.”

That’s one reason to keep on guard. Although Nestle’s may have found drilling on State land too “complicated,” because of the nature of the aquifer, and the profitability of a good water source, there’s always the potential for Nestle or another corporate bottler to pursue access through private land abutting the state owned plains.

“A municipal official from the town of Montague should ask if Nestle is talking to other property owners in the area,” suggested Russ Cohen, of the Department.of Fish and Game Riverways Program, prompting discussion of how best to inform nearby property owners of the larger impact, and potential risks of opening the door to a Nestle representative.

What would it take to discourage or deny drilling permits in the state of Massachusetts? In addition various MA DEP regulations, says Nancy Caffall, there is also the Massachusetts Water Management Act which requires that water withdrawals not stress the host river basin. That is, all withdrawals to a particular basin are considered rather than a more piecemeal approach, or one that considers only the impact on nearby surface waters.

Ironically, what makes spring water Spring Water is that it must be withdrawn from a location that is hydrogeologically connected to a surface stream. In other words, sites that are often more ecologically sensitive – with nearby habitat, freshwater fish streams etc.

And, says Kirt Mayland, Director of the New England Office of the Eastern Water Project of Trout Unlimited, the water industry wants to keep it this way – rather than going to sites where there’d be less impact. For example in Wisconsin, bottlers have drilled wells near some of the best trout streams in the region.

The case of Montague verses Nestles didn’t get as far as evaluation of impacts on nearby streams, or host river basins, in part thanks to the now famous Article 97. In addition to guaranteeing the people’s right to public resources, Article 97 also grants that removal of natural resources from public lands must be in the best interest for wildlife and wildlife habitat. So, unless like us, critters living on the plains have turned to bottled water, it’s hard to envision how corporate withdrawal would be of benefit to them, or to the public.

But as one meeting participant pointed out, “While Article 97 seemed like a real silver bullet, and although it has the most wonderful language for resource protection, there are a lot of terrible plans that happen – in this case the state may have been sensitive to all the opposition because it’s on state land.” Since most legislation regulating and protecting water was passed in the old days, when we drank water from the kitchen sink, or the bubbler down the hall, and before the rise of the multi-billion dollar bottled water industry, there are plenty of loopholes that corporations with deep pockets can ferret out. In short, there’s plenty of work to be done identifying and filling in the loopholes of state water legislation.

Not only is the extraction of a common trust resource, one that should be as free and accessible as the air we breath an issue, but between the trucking and the bottling there are plenty of other environmental impacts of the bottled water industry.

“There’s a whole lot of trucking,” impressed Mayland who noted that because the industry is so reliant on trucking, and because fuel prices are soaring, and because we here in the Northeast are major consumers of bottled water, the Route 91 corridor is of particular interest to bottled water developers, as are other locations in the Northeast that combine access to good water with access to good roads.

There is no doubt we have, in part, brought this upon ourselves by becoming a culture reliant upon bottled water. According to the group Corporate Accountability International “One of the most visible examples of corporate control of water is bottled water. It is the fastest growing sector of the US beverage market and just three corporations – Coke, Pepsi and Nestlé – make up over half of the US bottled water market. These corporations are privatizing our water, bottling it and selling it back to us at prices hundreds, even thousands of times what tap water costs. They have turned a shared common resource into a $100 billion global market – and one of the world’s fastest growing branded beverages.”

But if corporate greed isn’t enough to make you think twice about purchasing that next bottle of Aquafina, Poland Springs, or Evian, then think locally. We all know what happens to bottles that aren’t recycled, they’re tossed into garbage, flattened along the road side, or floating down the river. Then there is the toxic side of plastic bottles, and the potential for bottles, depending on the plastic to leach small amounts of toxicants into drinking water.

It’s time to turn back to the tap, relinquishing the bottle, and protect our municipal waters.