BAR HARBOR, Maine — Citing the impact that disposable water bottles can have on the environment, an advocacy group is petitioning Acadia National Park to ban the sale of bottled water at concession sites in the park.
The group, Think Outside the Bottle, has the support of College of the Atlantic, a local institution that swore off bottled water in 2006, and at least one local member of the elected Town Council.
“[Bottled water] is something that’s really easily replaceable because we have this awesome tap water all around us that we can use,” Sam Hanson, spokesman for the group, said Friday. “It’s a really easy fix.”
He said more than 4,000 signatures already have been submitted to Acadia officials asking them to forgo bottled water, which generates waste for the park to deal with and, if the empty bottles are not disposed of properly, contributes to plastic pollution.
Attempts Friday to contact Acadia officials about the proposed ban were unsuccessful.
Hanson said that if the park agrees to the ban, it will join more than 75 other National Park Service properties, including Bryce Canyon, Grand Canyon and Zion national parks, that already have banned bottled water sales. Think Outside the Bottle indicated it can help provide park visitors with alternatives by providing equipment for water stations in the park where they can fill their own reuseable bottles.
On Friday, representatives with the group were in the Village Green holding taste tests of local tap and bottled water for willing passersby. They also were collecting more petition signatures in favor of the proposed ban.
Hanson stressed that the group is not trying to ban the general use of bottled water in the park. By banning sales of bottled water inside Acadia, he said, it will help reduce the park’s waste stream and will provide a chance to educate the public about the impact of disposable water bottles, which typically are used once and then discarded.
“Selling bottled water undermines the public’s trust in the tap,” Hanson said, referring to water provided by public utilities. “The bottled water industry uses the parks to market their product as something that’s ‘green’ when really it’s something that’s really, really eco-unfriendly.”
Not only do plastic bottles pollute the environment, both on land and in fresh and salt water, but the efforts involved in manufacturing, filling and then distributing the bottles expend much more resources than simply filling reusable bottles at a kitchen sink or in a hotel bathroom, he said. In other parks where bottled water sales have been banned, he added, vendors have made up for the decrease in bottled water sales by selling more reuseable water bottles that visitors fill up with public drinking water.
Gary Friedmann, a member of the Bar Harbor Town Council, was at the Village Green on Friday to lend his personal support to the group’s petition drive. He said the council has not taken a position on the proposed ban, but the town has stopped providing bottled water to councilors at meetings.
Friedmann said Bar Harbor’s public water comes from Eagle Lake, which is surrounded by Acadia National Park and is fairly clean even prior to being treated by the town’s filtration system. He said the town has encouraged and implemented conservation measures to help limit municipal consumption from Eagle Lake and has “so much excess capacity” that providing more local water to park visitors would not be a concern.
“Bar Harbor does have one of the best water supplies in the world,” Friedmann said. “Having enough supply is not an issue at all here.”
Rob Levin, spokesman for COA, also was at the Village Green on Friday morning to support the proposal. He said the college is in favor of any effort to conserve natural resources and to better protect the environment.
“Bottled and packaged water is not an ecologically-friendly product,” Levin said.
Dan Bragdon, an Eddington native who now lives in Omaha, Nebraska, signed the petition Friday in Bar Harbor while on vacation with his family. He said he never buys bottled water, preferring instead to filter his home tap water. Generating less waste is a good idea, he added.
“I just think it’s better for the environment, and I’m not like a real uber-green kind of guy,” Bragdon said. “For me, it’s just common sense.”