In his March 22 letter to the editor of the Chronicle Journal, John B. Challinor 11, Director of Corporate Affairs for Nestle Waters Canada, claims that the Thunder Bay Council of Canadians request that Thunder Bay become a Blue Community is the result of a “Trojan horse-like” union-led conspiracy under the guise of human rights and infrastructure management. A Blue Community is a municipality that has adopted three resolutions that recognize access to safe, clean water as a human right, promote public water and waste water services and ban bottled water in municipal facilities and municipal events.
There are 14 Blue Communities in Canada and 84 municipalities, 2 territories, 7 school boards and 66 post-secondary institutions have banned or restricted the use of bottled water. (Polaris Institute) Mayor Hobbs, several City Councillors, the EarthCare Advisory Committee, EcoSuperior, CUPE Local 87 and many concerned citizens, environmental groups, health professionals, educators, students and First Nations have expressed support for Thunder Bay becoming a Blue Community. Mr. Challinor’s claim that supporters of this initiative are misguided and misled and not exercising independent thinking, simply does not hold water.
Around the world, demand for water is growing, while supply diminishes. Water is being called the Blue Gold of the 21st Century. The multi-billion dollar private water industry sees this as an opportunity to buy water for very little and sell it back to the public for huge profits. Water is a human right, not a commodity. 25% of bottled water is actually municipal tap water. If the private water industry’s takeover of public water is allowed to continue, who will ensure the protection of our water and its fair and equitable distribution? This is clearly a human rights issue.
Unlike municipal tap water, bottled water is regulated under the Canadian Food and Inspection agency and bottling plants are only inspected every one to three years. Thunder Bay has state-of-the-art public water and waste water systems. Our municipal tap water is stringently regulated, continuously monitored and tested more than 29,000 times annually. Many other communities that participated in public private partnerships (P3s) have taken back their water and waste water services. It makes sense that informed elected officials and citizens want to maintain public control of our water and waste water infrastructure and services.
Bottling water drains aquifers and shipping water outside its original source devastates watersheds. Bottling water is incredibly wasteful. The equivalent of 3-5 bottles of water is used to produce a single bottle of water. The Pacific Institute estimates the annual fossil fuel footprint of bottled water consumption in the United States is the equivalent of 50 million barrels of oil – enough to run 3 million cars for three years. Despite extensive recycling programs, 650 million plastic water bottles end up in landfill in Ontario each year. Mr. Challinor’s statement that the Blue Communities initiative is not an environmental issue, displays an alarming lack of understanding of the true costs of bottled water.
In 2009 the Federation of Canadian Municipalities recommended that its members phase out the sale of bottled water in their facilities. In 2010, City Council banned the distribution of bottled water in municipal facilities. Since then, the City has implemented a Back to the Tap program and made tap water more easily accessible in its facilities and at its events for people on the go.
If there is a ‘Trojan horse-like conspiracy’ as Nestle claims, it’s the multi-billion dollar water industry’s massive public relations campaign to undermine faith in public water in an effort to divert attention from its corporate takeover.
Located at the headwaters of the world’s largest body of freshwater, becoming a Blue Community will confirm Thunder Bay as a leader in the protection of this shared public resource and help our community and our planet more sustainable.
Sincerely, Janice Horgos, Chair of the Thunder Bay Council of Canadians Blue Planet Committee