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San Francisco may become the first major city in the United States to ban the sale of water in plastic bottles. A proposal introduced this week by San Francisco Supervisor David Chiu would prohibit the sale of plastic-bottled water on city property, including at parks, concerts, large public events and mobile food trucks, in order to reduce plastic waste. While venues would be required to make tap water available, opponents like the International Bottled Water Association say people would turn to more sugary options like soda. We discuss the proposed ban.

Guests:
David Chiu, president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and supervisor for District 3
Chris Hogan, spokesperson for the International Bottled Water Association

  • I’ll be Frank

    The public water in the Bay Area has been since 2004 deliberately polluted with ammonia by SFPUC. Ammonia reacts with chlorine to forms chloramines, which are acidic chemicals, harmful to the health of your skin and lungs and which break down PVC pipes over time as well as the solder used to join copper pipes, thereby releasing lead into the water. The added ammonia also causes the formation of nitrosamines, which are cancer-causing chemicals.

    Until SFPUC ceases adding ammonia to the water supply, which it doesn’t even need to do because it has proven that UV light is sufficient to kill bacteria, the only wise choice for consumers is to drink bottled spring water.

    The idea for adding ammonia to water came from the FDA, most of the top positions of which are currently held by executives from Monsanto.

    Forum should include activists from CCAC in this discussion, who can be found here:
    http://chloramine.org

    • Bob Fry

      Bottled “spring” water is often just tap water somewhere filtered with reverse osmosis and/or activated carbon. It’s not nearly as tested as common tap water. And who knows how long the bottled water has been sitting around?

      That said, this proposed ban is over-the-top. If they were going to ban sodas, maybe, but water? Really?

      • Jane

        Water is not being banned – Plastic bottles for water is the issue. I agree: Plastic bottles for beverages should be banned (not just for water). Regarding the added chemicals, public drinking fountains should have filters which remove harmful elements – problem solved.

        • Another Mike

          Reverse osmosis systems must be monitored and maintained (filter cartridge replacement) on a regular basis. Further, stripping out the chloramines could allow bacteria to grow — not what you want.

          • chrisnfolsom

            Pretty easy to do with technology and common sense. Creating billions of single use plastic bottles for water that cost more then gasoline to the customer is crazy.

          • Another Mike

            Everything comes at a cost — filtering fountain water makes little economic sense.

          • chrisnfolsom

            Of course different solutions would be used at different places although with technology and the fact that most parks already have weekly or more maintenance it might not be that hard… It is just crazy that a product that costs pennies a gallon and is not even shipped far costs dollars at the register.. Perhaps just give it away at dispensaries.

        • Bob Fry

          If the filters were properly maintained…but I don’t trust any widely dispersed public item to be maintained well enough.

      • Cathy

        I agree there should be a ban in bottles from sodas, but I wouldn’t call this over the top granted the health detriments to citizens.

    • Frank Jur

      Proper chloramination procedures vanishingly minimizes these concerns.

      • marte48

        Chlorine/chloramine is why I do NOT drink tap water. It’s known to be the most used toxin, and like antibiotics, it breeds stronger bacteria.

        • Bob Fry

          This is simply not true. Chlorine and its similar chemicals have been used for 100+ years and their properties and affects are well-known. Frank is correct.

  • Another Mike

    Let people drink Coke, as the Lord intended.

  • Another Mike

    Can David Chiu link to a map of free drinking fountains and water bottle refilling stations in SF?

  • Jon Gold

    Doesn’t the energy and production that go into bottled water exceed the water therein!?

    • chrisnfolsom

      It is insane to spend the energy and resources we do for bottled water. The issue is can the city, state, country make rules about it? I am torn and wish the push could just come from consumers. Obviously all the water advertising is not spent purely to “educate” users, but as will most advertising just to move product…

  • Frank Jur

    I’m sure that home owners and restaurant owners will be …more …than happy to have some stranger come in to refill their hygienically clean and non-BPA container so that one can get a drink of water. Is Chu kidding?

    • Cathy

      The ban is only for public areas not private businesses.

      • Another Mike

        For now.

        • Cathy

          If that proposal happens then you may have a legitimate argument. But it’s not the one that’s in front of us and you aren’t arguing to that. Hence, your current point is irrelevant.

          • Another Mike

            So disposal of empty water bottles sold on city property is an environmental nightmare, while the disposal of empty water bottles sold in private stores is just ducky?

            The slippery slope is how SF politics works. Look at the plastic bag ban.

  • Jane

    This is a fine start, but why only water? Nearly every edible product is sold in plastic packaging. I would also like to ask the guest who is currently promoting “recycling” of plastic whether she understands how plastic is recycled: Is it in any way rational to sell single-use plastic containers, which in the first place involve unsustainable production practices, and will immediately require polluting practices (“recycling”) in order for it to be used again.

    • Deanne DiPietro

      I think the rationale is that they have to start somewhere, and water is something that can be made accessible to the public easily for free.

  • Bob Fry

    Chu just said “pour into a cup”…well, aren’t most of those cups plastic? This guy is solving a non-existent problem.

  • Allison Gervais

    Isn’t this the same board of supervisors that want to tax soda? Aren’t there higher priorities than trying to decide what products people in San Francisco should be purchasing? How about working on the runaway housing crisis?

    • chrisnfolsom

      Actually the public money spent dealing with the effects of sugar are enormous. IF your government was a business then it would do much more to prevent the huge health problems we are/will pay to save money in the long run – or just go out of business. I am not agreeing with the government making these choices, but then again to have businesses spending millions to get people to buy things with no “real” need unanswered is also a problem.

      • Cathy

        If the private industry saw a market for preventing these health problems businesses would already have done so.

        • chrisnfolsom

          That is one problem as there isn’t a connection between the “profit motive” and human health – unless of course the consumer is educated and organized enough to shape demand – but who am I kidding…. businesses tell us we are in command and placate us with sweets and immediate gratification and rake in as much as they can before the house of cards falls. Back in the ’80’s after growing up in the Bay Area, seeing the space shuttle go up, technology and everything there was so much hope, but then when asking all those educated business people in school what inspired them (yeah boring..) I was disheartened to have the answer be “Money” – nothing really more or deeper behind it (which I tried to tease out of them) which I guess I am an idealist, but really disappointed me. These were the future business leaders of America, the World, and it seemed a bit shallow – as I believe we can now see in America today – sorry, I digress…. yeah bottled water.. 😉

    • H Nicole Anderson

      This the same illogical argument the industry guy is peddling: the forced choice fallacy.

    • Cathy

      Soda is the number one food that contributes to obesity and diabetes including to children in our country. Indirectly we all end up paying for that. It’s not a random choice by the government.

  • Municipal water sources almost always include flouride, which is known to slow metabolism and is dangerous for people with thyroid issues. As one of those people, bottled water is often the only safe choice I have!

    • Another Mike

      San Francisco’s water has been fluoridated for some sixty years now.

  • Allison Cordrey

    Is there a reason water doesn’t come in aluminum cans?

  • SuzNc

    We operate a small bed & breakfast in San Francisco. Our visitors spend most of their day exploring the city, buying bottled water en route, and they leave hundreds of empty plastic bottles in the trash when they leave, loading up the recycling bins. We encourage them to purchase reusable bottles and fill them with tap water. But what kind of reusable bottles are safest? And should they, too, be recycled after use if the visitors leave them behind?

  • Another Mike

    People come to San Francisco from all over the world — many are used to buying spring and mineral water from convenience stores. Will the supervisors provide visitors with a reusable bottle and drinking fountain maps?

    • Deanne DiPietro

      Putting the locations of drinking fountains on maps of the city for walking purposes is a good idea!

      • chrisnfolsom

        I am very surprised – especially in SF that it has not already been done…

  • Alyse

    Supervisor Chu and Peter i appreciate that you understand the larger picture problem of reduce plastic to begin with and bottled water (a made up commodity) should not be sold in public venues, To the American Beverage association we need to REDUCE not just RECYCLE. Bottled Water is a made up product that takes a public resource and resells hurting the environment, our health and SF water is better anyways

  • Cathy

    Water is literally a necessity to the health and survival of humans. Even putting aside the recycling issue of plastic, the idea that we should need to purchase safe water rather than have free access to just as healthy water is immoral. The bottled water industry is monopolizing water access to people worldwide by purchasing it which has detrimental implications for our future.

    • chrisnfolsom

      Immoral? Will people die of dehydration in the streets? Really, we could easily survive without bottled water as we have for … all of human history – especially here in most of America. We have to make decisions on a social level and weigh the benefits and problems on a social level. If no one is going to drink tap water lets save money and not filter it so much.

  • Brad

    I can agree with the sentiments of this proposal, but from a practical standpoint I suspect that people will just turn to other bottled products if bottled water isn’t available. Seems like it needs to an an all-or-nothing approach.

  • H Nicole Anderson

    I never buy bottled water except to take to sporting events as most venues allow only “sealed” (new bottles) Can this be changed?

  • scrypps

    Very surprised the focus is just on plastic bottles. Probably a higher environmental impact bottled water brings is the costs to transport it. Water weighs an incredible amount and transporting it with a big rig from the bottling plant uses quite a bit of fuel and resources.

    • Another Mike

      The same is true of both sugary and artificially sweetened drinks — why do they get a pass?

    • Kelly Decker

      Not to mention that this water comes from somewhere and contributes to the international privatization of water resources.

  • George

    how does charging for $4.50 bottle for water at a venue help anyone with diabetes. It seems like simple price gouging when there’s also no alternative

    • Kelly Decker

      Actually many venues have refilling stations (Outsidelands is an example)

      • Another Mike

        Actually Outsidelands patrons believe that three refilling stations are inadequate, and there is an online petition to increase that number.

    • chrisnfolsom

      It’s interesting that water can cost more then soda – how does that happen – should’t the water in soda be at lease as pure as the bottled water we buy?

  • If you build it, they will come. I love the water stations at the airport and I’ve switched to refilling my own bottle. If San Francisco invests in installing clean water stations around the city, I think people will OPT for refilling their own bottles, thus rendering buying bottled water a relic of the past.

  • Peter Werner

    I want to point out that for all the boosterism of tap water, there are large parts of the country where extremely bad water coming out of the tap is the norm, and bottled water is an absolute necessity. Try some water right out of the tap from places like the Salinas or San Joaquin Valleys, where their water source is the hard water in the aquifers, and then tell me with a straight face that tap water is always preferable. In many locales, the water is so seriously off (not to mention full of pesticide residues), even filtration doesn’t improve it sufficiently.

    • chrisnfolsom

      Of course this only affects SF at this time, but does need to be addressed in different situations – if you live in an old home and have old pipes you can have issues. Also, in America we have BPA in our bottles – not is Europe…

  • Sangita Moskow

    The tap water here is NOT safe. For one thing it has fluoride in it, a known toxin. Actually the fluoride added is in the form of hydrofluorosilicic acid which has more toxic elements in it. For another, various chemicals are added–like chlorine. Water is my drink of choice and the tap water tastes terrible, so I buy reverse osmosis water in bulk–in other words I reuse my plastic containers (made from a kind of plastic that doesn’t bleed into the water). In Marin we are trying to get the fluoride out of our water here.

    • Kelly Decker

      baloney

    • Kelly Decker

      However, I applaud your buying in bulk and reusing your containers

  • Karen P.

    Sparkling water in the Bay Area also comes in plastic bottles. In the East Coast, supermarket brands and name brands, such as Polar, sell sparkling water in 12-ounce cans. I’m waiting for Safeway and Calistoga to bottle their water in cans. I don’t see why they don’t.

    • Another Mike

      Practically no water comes from the Calistoga spring any more. The bottling facility is long closed and up for sale.

  • Frank Jur

    Wouldn’t bringing in you own containers (like stainless steel) be a way for a terrorist to bring in a bomb or a toxic substance.

  • Kelly Decker

    The idea that we need to purchase bottled water in order to continue the recycling stream is akin to going to war to for the health of the defense industry. I always learned that reducing and reusing was preferable to recycling. Having said that, refilling stations would be needed at places that did not have bottled water because people stop because they are thirsty for something cold and water trumps other beverages in many ways (even, I dare say in water use).

  • Kelly Decker

    People seem unaware that lots of bottled water comes from the tap.

    • Another Mike

      Soda pop is essentially tap water, as is beer.

  • A reasonable person

    Perhaps the proposed ban should make an exception for water in plant-based bottles. Wouldn’t that encourage more providers of bottled water to use these more acceptable alternatives?

  • K.C. Murphy

    I have three different bins at my home in Oakland. One is for trash, one is for recyclables, and one is for compost. The only one I can put ANY plastic into is the trash…

    • Another Mike

      You pay California Redemption Value on each bottle of water you buy — why not fill a bag and take it to a nearby recycling booth?

      • Kelly Decker

        That doesn’t work for 99% of people

        • Another Mike

          Where I live every Safeway has a recycling booth, open Friday through Tuesday.

      • K.C. Murphy

        I just don’t use plastic wherever possible (I have a fridge that filters my tap water). The “nearest” recycling booth to me is in El Cerrito. My point is that while plastic bottles are ‘recyclable”, they are only recyclable with considerable effort and other carbon requirements (for me, driving up I80 for 45 minutes to get to El Cerrito). If plastic was not the only common kitchen refuse my city does NOT recycle… I might buy more of it. As it is, I buy cans and glass containers wherever possible. The woman on this show from the recycling industry went on about how plastic bottles are NOT trash – but they totally ARE trash when trying to recycle them takes a considerable amount of effort and research (in Oakland, at least).

  • Phillip

    Question for the panel. I like the ban, but was wondering if a proposal to tax bottled water and use that money to fund public water infrastructure was considered?

  • Dale

    Lets call it like it is here – people drink bottled water out of convenience. If filling stations were as prevalent as places that sold bottled water, we would be drinking much more water from filling stations – especially in the Bay Area. The issue isn’t the taste – it’s that you know you can get water when you’re thirsty at any store at any time.

    • Another Mike

      And water should be chilled, as well. Carrying a bottle of lukewarm tap writer is not appealing.

    • chrisnfolsom

      I take a different approach – people drink bottles water for convenience, and because it has been marketed to them strongly and been provided to them – at great expense – compared to the previous water supply. We lived quite well before bottled water was made into the money producer it now is. Yes, we all (generally) like the convenience – as it is, but it is a large change in the water supply scheme and as with commuting, smart phones and other newer solutions the good and the bad physically and socially need to be mapped out and the main question is not – can someone make money on it. As with prostitution (yes a bit dramatic..) – there is a supply, is a ready customer and plenty of money to be made, but many physical and social implications. We need to discuss, weigh and make decisions as with just about anything.

  • Kelly Decker

    Perhaps the approach is upside down. Start by adding water refilling stations, then phase out bottled water.

  • H Nicole Anderson

    Chu, why don’t you find a cure for cancer instead? 🙂

  • marte48

    Chlorine/chloramine is the reason why I do not drink tap water. It’s known to be
    the most used toxin, and like antibiotics, it breeds stronger bacteria. I use it for bathing, that’s all.

    • Kelly Decker

      So you drink something out of plastic…a petroleum product? Doesn’t make sense.

  • Veganhood

    I can’t wait for plastic bottles to go away. The plasticizers used in the manufacturing are not rinsed out before water is added. These toxic chemicals have been linked to problems associated with endocrine disrupters. I am not talking about the plastic itself but the film that is left on the surface.
    Donna

  • Dev Gorur

    The fact that there is even a debate on banning the *sale* of bottled water on *public property* where there is access to *potable* tap water is ridiculous. This is a no-brainer. Just do it already and move on to issues that warrant debating!

  • marte48

    For years, I have re-filled gallon-sized water bottles from the water stores, and then filled refillable bottles at home. Alot of work, but better for the environment, and most of the toxins are removed for drinking.

  • Kelly Decker

    I have yet to hear a discussion of the issue of privatization of global water resources. I recommend the documentary “Blue Gold: World Water Wars” for more information. Bottled water may be healthy for the consumer, but at the source, people are thirsty.

  • A reasonable person

    Regarding the ban on city property, if personal refillable water bottles are also made available for purchase at the same time, there is no question that the choice of water will be as available as “other sugary drinks”. The bottled water industry rep keeps making this argument, but from my perspective, it doesn’t hold water!

  • Avinash Talanki

    Insane! How different is Soda plastic from Water plastic? If one was banned so should have the other. More incentive for us to drink Sugar and become obese!

  • marte48

    I use plastic gallon containers to bring water home from the water stores, and then drink out of glass cups at home. When I carry water to work, I use a re-fillable sipper cup. I have considered getting a home water-filtration system, but that has other problems. We all have to drink more (safe) water, and also reduce the amount of waste we leave behind. We should also be thankful for the water we have. Many places in the world do not have enough safe water, tap or otherwise.

  • CSNIronclad

    Nanny Nanny Nanny. Where do these people get off telling decent people what they can and cannot buy that is a legal product? Just more aspect of control over what you say, what you do and what you can buy. But the herd mentality in SF is so great that the sheep will conform.

    Politician’s like Chu need to be run out of town on a rail.

    • chrisnfolsom

      Sometimes we need a nanny. If people vote for a nanny, and re-elect them then that is what they want – change the government or move – that is freedom – would you rather just have corporations take care of your kids? We do need more buffers, either Consumer Reports, or other like entities to be between business and consumers – we used to trust government agencies, but it seems that we don’t now as we all know you can’t trust government in anything – yet we let them control wars – that makes a lot of sense…

  • Ken Mooney

    Accepting reality seems to be taboo and being veiwed as “pc” is believed to be a more desirae outcome. Wake up. #1- when or “if” funds are allocated for clean public tap stations, theyll end up like every other public fountain, bathroom, etc. In any city in the world. Unsanitary, dysfunctional, and gross. Like the wonderful new public restrooms in.sf.A pictures worth a thousand words. Remember were supposedly encouraging the masses. Need i say more ? #2-building a glorified water spicket will undoubtedly be another venture in lining local politicians pocket and the taxpayer being overcharged by a plumber. Get a grip. Thats a given. And lastly #2- Plastic is a reusable material. You dont even have to recycle it. So again were talking about a behavioral pattern issue. Isnt that obvious? And who walks.around with stainless steel water containers? Who wants to? Thats assinine. Yeah go to an airport or a city or federal building and walk in with a metal container. The level of ignorance is intoxicating… thats like carrying around an extra pair of clogs to protest man made materials. Our law makers are out of touch and lack creativity. Period…… ken moony

  • Ellie

    For people who suffer from skin, respiratory and/or digestive symptoms from exposure to tap water with chloramine in it, this puts a lightning bolt of fear into our stomachs. With no spring water available to us, how are we supposed to get access to water that doesn’t make us sick!!! IF YOU WANT TO BAN SPRING WATER IN PLASTIC BOTTLES, THEN YOU MUST INSIST THAT CHLORAMINE COME OUT OF OUR WATER FIRST!!!!!

  • Ellie

    FOR SOME OF US, TAP WATER IS *NOT* A SAFE ALTERNATIVE. For those of us who suffer from skin, respiratory and/or digestive symptoms (some are LIFE THREATENING) FROM EXPOSURE TO CHLORAMINE in tap water in the Hetch Hetchy water, this is terrifying to us!!!!! Chloramine is nigh on ***impossible*** to filter out. WE NEED ACCESS TO BOTTLED SPRING WATER- WATER THAT NEVER HAD ANY CHLORAMINE IN IT!!!!! IF YOU WANT TO PASS THIS LEGISLATION, YOU ***MUST*** ALSO INSIST THAT CHLORAMINE COME OUT OF OUR TAP WATER FIRST!!!!!!!

  • Mark Hall

    1/3 of one percent is not a fair comparison. Recycling is accounted for by weight. Metal of all types, paper of all types, etc., are heavy, whereas plastic water bottles have been designed over the years made lighter. Compare by volume! Remember the Plastic Garbage Patch when discussing.

  • Hunter Mann

    I recall being in Berkeley back in the late 70’s. The city was trying to add fluoride to the city water. One of the anti-fluoride slogans back then was “”Don’t Fluoridate Water, Fluoridate Candy!”

    This topic is yet again a moment when I wish Herb Caen was still alive and scribbling his puns and parodies on the goofiness of it all.

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