At Monday’s Council meeting Petra Hartwig and Gigi Ludorf-Weaver asked Council to do three things: 1) declare that water and sanitation services are fundamental human rights, 2) ban bottled water in municipal facilities and municipal events and 3) install outside water bottle filling stations strategically placed around the Town. Councillor Nicole Beatty showed support by drinking from a flask and Mayor John Henderson pointed out that Victoria Hall had already replaced two drinking fountains with bottle filling stations. Petra and Gigi were primarily representing the Blue Communities Organization but were also representing the Northumberland Chapter of the Council of Canadians, Sustainable Cobourg and Blue Dot. Petra and Gigi pointed to the enormous profits made by water bottlers who anyway often used municipal water.
Water and Sanitation as Human Rights
Their presentation said that:
Water is essential to life – no one should be able to control it or exploit it for profit. The human right to water entitles everyone to sufficient, safe, accessible water for personal and household use. The human right to sanitation would ensure that everyone has access to toilets or latrines that provide privacy and a safe and dignified environment that is physically accessible, affordable and culturally sensitive.
Why Ban Bottled Water? [A selection of points made]
- It represents a private takeover of the water commons. Corporations take free-flowing water from its natural state – or, sometimes, treated municipal water – put it in plastic bottles, and sell it at exorbitant rates
- Aquafina admits using municipal water systems in Mississauga and Vancouver
- In the United States, scientific evidence suggests almost 50% of bottled water comes from municipalities
- Bottling plants are inspected on average only once every three years!
- In Cobourg, Lakefront Utilities Services staff collect samples weekly. Cobourg has been forward thinking in using the process of Osmosis in our water systems – a more sustainable practice.
- The bottled water industry requires massive amounts of fossil fuels to manufacture and transport
- in 2009, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), voted in favour of a resolution to encourage all Canadian cities to phase out the sale and provision of bottled water in municipal facilities and at municipal events.
What replaces bottled water?
In Cobourg, Town employees and residents can use bottles that would be refilled from “bottle filling stations”. Petra estimated the cost at “roughly $3,500 to $4,500 per unit plus installation”. She also mentioned that another benefit would be fewer plastic bottles in landfills.
Council referred the issue to the Environmental & Climate Change Advisory Committee.