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David Mittleman
David Mittleman
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Clean Water

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Diverting Michigan’s water supply has been a hot topic in the state for a long time. Michigan residents have long feared the threat from western states and foreign countries seeking a water supply in the Great Lakes Basin. On October 3, 2008, President George W. Bush signed the Great Lakes Compact into law. The Compact is a multi-state agreement that gives the states and provinces of the Great Lakes Basin more power to regulate large diversions out of the Basin.

While the Compact is a big step in the right direction, environmental groups like Clean Water Action fear that the Compact also has a large loophole for the newest threat to Basin waters – bottled water. The bottled water loophole allows an unlimited exemption for water that is bottled in containers that are 5.7 gallons or less.

In 2007, the Supreme Court of Michigan made severe alterations to the Michigan Environmental Protection Act (MEPA) in a ruling for Nestlé Waters of North America. Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation v Nestlé Waters of North America, 479 Mich. 280, 302, 737 N.W.2d 447 (2007). Originally, MEPA was designed to give the private citizen a sizable share of the initiative for environmental law enforcement. The Michigan Court overruled 30 years of case law that held that any person could bring legal action to protect Michigan’s natural resources from harm.

Not only does the bottled water industry pose environmental threats to Michigan, there are also threats posed by the product itself. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that some bottled waters are the same quality as tap water; and that 10 popular brands of bottled water contained traces of pain medications and fertilizer residue, among 38 other chemical pollutants – an average of 8 contaminants in each brand.

The EWG also reports "one bottled water brand spurred a 78% increase in the growth of breast cancer cells compared to the control sample, with 1200 initial breast cancer cells multiplying to 32,000 in 4 days, versus only 18,000 for the control sample, indicating that chemical contaminants in the bottled water sample stimulated accelerated division of cancer cells."

Unfortunately, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not made the regulation of bottled water a high priority despite the evidence to suggest that it should. In fact, 60-70% of the bottled water sold in the U.S. is exempt from the agency’s bottled water standards because the rules do not apply to water bottled and sold within the same state.

In addition to the poor quality of bottled water, bottled water comes at a price that is more expensive than gasoline. The Earth Policy Institute reports that bottled water can cost up to 10,000 times more than tap water – $10 per gallon! You might be asking, "how is this possible?" In a word – oil. 17 million barrels of oil are required to satisfy the demand for bottled water each year in the U.S. – enough to fuel 1 million cars for one year. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petroleum2.7 million tons of plastic are used for bottled water worldwide.

There are several steps that you can take to protect yourself from contaminated water and help conserve energy at the same time. Learn what is coming out of your tap. Local tap water suppliers are required to publish their water quality tests, while bottled water companies do not. Go to http://www.ewg.org/tapwater/findings.php to learn more about your local tap water provider. Use filtered water for consumption. Carbon filters, like Brita, are cheap and can reduce many of the contaminants that may come out of your faucet. Use a water bottle that does not contain a chemical called bisphenol A (BPA) when you want to take water with you.