JPNC looks at giving up the bottle

December 4, 2009
By

David Taber

The Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (JPNC) voted at its Nov. 24 meeting to endorse a campaign by the non-profit Corporate Accountability International (CAI) to end state-sponsored bottled water consumption.

The council also selected new members to fill three of the four vacancies left after its September election.

Jay Zoldak and Peggy O’Connor in Area A (Hyde/Jackson/Egleston Square areas), and David Baron in Area B (East of Centre St. between Egleston and Forest Hills) were approved by acclamation. The Council still has to fill one more vacancy in Area A.

A significant chunk of the meeting was devoted to a presentation by Ruby Bolaria, an organizer with CAI’s “Think Outside the Bottle” campaign.

The campaign is a general effort to discourage bottled water consumption, and to combat what campaign literature describes as corporate efforts to convince “communities and individuals that the only place to get clean and safe water is from a bottle.” Bolaria told the council that Massachusetts ranks third in the country for tap-water quality.

But the specific effort the JPNC endorsed was to convince the Governor Deval Patrick to sign a pledge to eliminate state spending on bottled water. Bolaria said that would save the state an estimated $700,000 a year, and the money could be reinvested in the Commonwealth’s water infrastructure.

Most of the problems with the state’s water infrastructure, Bolaria and Baron—who works as a real estate lawyer by day—said most of the problems with the state’s water system are at the faucet-end, particularly because of lead pipes in older buildings.

“Most of the problems are last-mile problems, or really last-15-feet problems,” Baron said.

State efforts could include replacing old plumbing at the state house that makes the water there unsafe to drink, she said.

“We shouldn’t be looking to bottled water as an alternative” for a robust public drinking water system, she said.

Bolaria said the mayors of Cambridge and Somerville and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino had all signed the pledge. Bolaria said that the goal of the pledge is not to provoke an overnight switch from bottled water to tap water at state-sponsored events and in the Statehouse, but to get the ball rolling.

Bolaria made practical arguments for the campaign, talking about things like the Corporate Accountability estimate that 90 percent of discarded plastic water bottles end up in landfills. She also described thr US’s public water system, designed at the turn of the century, as a fundamentally democratic infrastructure project that was initially implemented to put an end to the for-profit distribution of often-shoddy water at that time.

“Woo-hoo! Go America!” she said.

Ann Sylvester, who works as a JP neighborhood liaison for City Councilor John Tobin, told the Gazette that City Hall staffers still drink from water bubblers.

Bolaria said CAI will hold a press conference and sending Patrick a letter urging him to sign onto the tap water pledge on Dec. 9.

For more information on the campaign, see www.thinkoutsidethebottle.org.

Loop Bus

Michael Reiskind, head of the Council’s Public Service Committee, said that group is beginning to reorganize in its efforts to save the #48, or JP Loop, bus.

The MBTA early this year agreed to postpone discontinuing the bus route—which is used by many seniors, particularly residents at the Boston Housing Authority senior housing development at 125 Amory St.— for one year until March, 2010.

The Public Service Committee and others have since made fitful efforts to find funding to hire a private carrier to take over the route with a smaller bus or van.

State Rep. Liz Malia told the Gazette she is working with Reiskind and the Roxbury-based T Rider’s Union, among others to find a funding source for the bus.

“It has been a tumultuous year” with the elections and the recession, Malia told the Gazette in a phone interview following the meeting, “We are hoping to get together right after Thanksgiving and bring all the players to the table.”