Tamara Cunningham, Daily News Published: Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Nanaimo residents will have to bring their own reusable water containers into civic facilities this fall as the city phases out the sale of bottled water.
City council members decided in a 5-4 vote on Monday to ban the sale of bottled water at all public facilities and municipal events, despite some reservations about taking away free choice.
The move will earn Nanaimo a “blue community” designation from the Council of Canadians and CUPE; a title that also means the city recognizes water as a human right and supports publicly owned water services.
People will still be able to purchase water bottles from stores and the city will upgrade its fountains so they can fill reusable containers.
But city staff members have also made it clear the transition won’t come without cost. Consumers would lose a healthy drink alternative in vending machines and the city would be out $8,500 annually from revenue it collects from water sales.
It will also cost about $5,000 to upgrade fountains during the next three years and educate the public about the benefits of tap water, according to a city report.
Councillors Diane Brennan, Diana Johnstone, Fred Pattje, Bill Bestwick and Jim Kipp favoured eliminating plastic containers from vending machines.
Brennan said it could be a “critical” part of efforts to educate the public about the importance of a new water-treatment plant and the need for additional water sources. Councillors Bill McKay, Ted Greves, George Anderson and Mayor John Ruttan voted against the motion.
“I just think this is too overarching and I don’t see why we are taking (away) peoples’ choice . . . in facilities they own and pay for,” Anderson said.
Nanaimo resident Celia Murphy was surprised by the decision, expected to be in effect by October.
“I think it’s wrong and they shouldn’t be allowed to do this,” she said. “People should be able to choose what they want.”
Another resident, Aimee Rounding, is also concerned about the change. Her children often want something from vending machines, and water was one of the few healthy choices available.
Upgrades to water fountains, signage to steer people to tap water and the phasing out of bottled water are expected to be completed within the next four months.