“Back to the Tap” Movement David Fankhauser, PhD Professor of Biology and Chemistry University of Cincinnati Clermont College
Introduction • Clean water is essential for life. • Population pressures are leading to competition for water. • Pure, clean, safe water is everyone’s goal, some cities do this well. • But is bottled water better? • What are the real costs, both financially and to the environment? • What can I do? • What should we as a society do?
What might be wrong with tap water? • We flush our wastes into our rivers: “Out of sight, out of mind.” • The America (and all of humanity) has a poor record on adequate treatment of waste water. • Many chemicals sent into the sewage waste stream are passed through sewage treatment.
Today, officially this water is “treated” Major contaminants are removed in STPs. But, for instance, is soap removed in the Nine Mile STP? Many chemicals are resistant to standard treatment.
Some pharmaceuticals are not removed by treatment • These pharmaceuticals: • Antibiotics • anti-convulsants • mood stabilizers • sex hormones • These have been found in the drinking water supplies of at least 41 million Americans. • Including bottled water
Evidence of effects of drugs in water • Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) interfere by mimicking, blocking, or altering hormones and their signaling systems. An example is the feminization of male fish. Fathead Minnow, studied at Cincinnati EPA “The majority of … EDCs reach aquatic environments via effluents of sewage treatment plants. “ http://www.epa.gov/eerd/VGQPCR.htm
In some parts of the world, bottled water makes sense. • In some countries, it is wise to drink only bottled water. • But developed countries generally have high quality tap water.
NYC: GREAT water • New York City, because of its protected watershed, has superb quality tap water.
Baltimore also protects its watershed • The Loch Raven Reservoir watershed is the largest watershed within Baltimore County. Baltimore city
SW Ohio had a chance for pure water The East Fork Reservoir drained low population, non-industrialized region (but with considerable agricultural usage). But CECOS, a mammoth national toxic waste dump, was permitted directly up stream… Now closed, the wastes remain as a threat.
What exactly IS bottled water? • Much bottled water is no more than filtered municipal tap water. • For instance: • Aquafina by Pepsi-Cola • Dasani by Coca-Cola • Both municipal water
Pepsi’s original slogan for Aquafina: "So pure, we promise nothing…" • As well they couldn’t… • A classic PR scam
Ironically, standards are lower for bottled water than tap water • Tap water is much more strictly regulated and tested. • Water bottlers are not required to test for the presence of E. coli, Cryptosporidium, Giardia, asbestos, or certain organic compounds such as benzenes
Why is it so popular? • Corporate ad campaigns instill fear of tap water, implying that bottled water is safer… • Status symbol (“only poor or low class drink tap water”) • Push for drinking 8 glasses of water a day (follow the money) • Does not taste like chlorine • Avoiding sugar drinks
Much more expensive than gasoline… So what do you pay for bottled water?
How absurd can we get? • Deep seawater from Hawaii is the most expensive bottled water in the world. • Hawaii Deep Marine Inc.’s Kona Nigari water, sells for $33.50 per 2 oz bottle. • It’s extracted from a depth of 915 feet, over 700 feet more than is necessary for the water to be considered deep seawater.
And the cost to the environment? • Plastic manufacture, bottling, and transport all cost oil. • 86% of empties in the States are sent to landfill. (In the orient, they are better at recycling.)
Any guess what we are looking at? Hint: this is five minutes worth…
In 5 minutes… 2,000,000 water bottles in US http://www.chrisjordan.com/current_set2.php
Phthalates and Bisphenol A • PET bottles (#1) are made with polyethylene terephthalate. Phthalates are hormone disrupters. • Bisphenol A is found in beverage bottles marked #7 (including some baby bottles). It is an estrogen like compound. • Bottled water stored for long periods, especially in the heat, leach these materials into the water. • Never heat beverages in a PET container.
A caution about home water filters 1) Place a sterile Millipore filter 2) Attach a cylinder 3) Draw water through with vacuum Fresh tap water: Filtered tap water 4) Place filter on nutrient pad http://biology.clc.uc.edu/fankhauser/Labs/Microbiology/Drinking_Water/jpgs/Drinking_water.html
At home: • Draw tap water and allow to ‘breathe’ overnight to reduce chlorine. (Fill a glass gallon jug half full.) • Change filter on your water filter regularly (monthly?). • Dispose of pharmaceuticals (Incineration? Hazwaste? Landfill?) • Do not use garbage disposal, it adds to sewage treatment plant load. • Be an activist to your water works: read the analysis reports, demand they test for pharmaceuticals.
Making the broader community Bottled Water “unfriendly” • Insist on tap water in the US and other developed countries when served water. • Push to remove bottled water service at all functions: government, church, business, etc. • Tax or require deposit on all bottles. (Chicago already has a 5 cent tax/bottle.) • Reduce use and discharge of pharmaceuticals into waterways. • Work to make Knox Presbyterian Church “Bottled Water Free” and to promote such actions in the local Council of Churches, and to petition remedial actions by the City of Cincinnati and beyond.
Model for a petition to the church governing body • WHERE AS: • Bottled water is damaging to our environment due to plastics used, cost of bottling, energy cost of transportation, the widespread litter it generates, and the requirements for landfill disposal. • Municipal tap water is as a rule more carefully regulated and at least as safe as bottled water. • One of the roles of the church is to be a good shepherd to our environment and to guide the community in morally responsible practices to this end. • BE IT RESOLVED: • We the undersigned attendees of Knox Presbyterian Church request that the church make it policy to discourage the use of bottled water at church functions. • We request that Knox Presbyterian Church propose to the local Council of Churches that the Council take a stand against the use of bottled water.