Last year, the city took two of the three steps needed to become a "Blue Community."
The first two steps were recognizing water as a human right and committing to promoting publicly owned and operated water and wastewater services. Last night city officials heard from Nancy Carswell and the Council of Canadians, who urged the city to take the final step by banning the sales of bottled water at city facilities and events when tap water is available.
"It is not acceptable that four litres of water is used to make just one litre of water,” Carswell said at Monday night's executive committee meeting. “It is not acceptable that bottled water drains us of 2,000 times the energy of tap water.”
While all council members agreed on the negative environmental impacts of bottled water, they were hesitant to ban its sale.
Ward 3 and 2 Councillors Evert Botha and Terra Lennox-Zepp pitched alternative ideas. Lennox-Zepp proposed examining the costs of a portable tap water station for outdoor events, and Botha requested a report on the inventory of facilities with water refill stations, where they could be accommodated and what the financial implications of banning bottled water sales could be.
"Let's look at the facts and look at the numbers and see where we are as a city in providing free access to water at all our facilities," Botha said.
After a contentious debate, their proposals were struck down in a 4-4 vote, despite intrest to explore the ideas down the road.
Ward 5 Coun. Dennis Ogrodnick pointed to the high costs associated with installing water refill stations and the need to educate the public on using tap water. He said it was not the city’s place to ban everything and he would rather see the city offer healthy alternatives, though he noted any significant changes would come with a cost.
"I think we are going to get there, I just don’t think it is going to happen now,” he said. “If we are willing to say we want to have healthy food, then we have to be prepared to take a loss, maybe, in the short term.”
Ward 8 Coun. Ted Zurakowski sought a more wholesome debate on sugary drinks and plastics, and said the city the city needed to be aware of unintended consequences.
“We have children cracking a can of coke, Pepsi, energy drinks that are easily acceptable,” he said. “This is [just] check off the box, easy fix and feel good about ourselves and move on.”
Ward 1 Coun. Charlene Miller, who helped usher in the refillable water stations at city facilities, said she did not agree with only selling pop and energy drinks at city-owned concessions.
“Families are in a hurry. When they are … they will pick out something not good for their children,” she said. "If bottled water is sitting there and that is all the choice they have for nutrition, I believe that should be there.”
Mayor Greg Dionne said he could not support any motion that dealt with bottled banning water sales until there was reform on the detrimental health effects of selling energy drinks to young people.
“Water doesn’t hurt anyone. I agree with the environmental issues, but you drink water and it doesn’t hurt you. But, I stand alone to fight against the sale of energy drinks to children,” he said. “That is what our young and poor are drinking. If I had a choice to give them pop or water, I am giving them a bottle of water. I am giving them 10 bottles of water.”
Dionne said that prohibition of any item does not work. If the city banned bottled water at its facilities, he said residents would just bring their own. He also said bottled water sales had overtaken soda and provided a healthy lump sum to city coffers.
On Twitter: @JournoMarr
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