Great Barrington voters duped by so-called ‘water filling stations’

To the editor:

The voters of Great Barrington are getting duped again. The first time was with the clever marketing of the “water bottle ban,” and now again with water filling stations.

On the surface, the recent announcement of private funding for three water filling stations in Great Barrington seems to be a move in the right direction for the environment. Clearly, however, their sole purpose is to promulgate the enforcement of the “water bottle ban.” Without the promised filling stations, enforcement of the ban would not move forward per the town selectboard.

There are several issues that do not seem to line up now that we see the implementation plan.

1) We (the voters of Great Barrington) were assured in the marketing presentation of this ban that ALL our tap water is safe. Suddenly, without defining criteria, there is a requirement for utilizing a filter in the Housatonic filling station, as the water there is apparently not as safe as we were led to believe. The inclusion of a filtered unit approved by the town would seem to indicate that it admits to a water quality problem in Housatonic, potentially opening the town to liability problems, and at least showing there has to be some responsibility taken to alleviate it.

2) There has been no explanation of what is being filtered by the filtered filling station: Is it merely sedimentation, or is it more specific such as filtering chlorine, lead, mercury, THMs, maybe PFAs (which the EPA is currently considering guidelines for, as there are none for this known contaminant)?

3) There are no filters planned for the filling stations located in other Great Barrington locations. In spite of concerns being expressed about the quality of tap water in general, no filtration is being implemented in any other filling stations. Again, there have been no criteria listed for the reason to filter or not.

4) The location of these stations does not appear to have been vetted. One would assume the purpose of the filling stations, in regard to supporting a water bottle ban, would be to allow ease of refilling in a location where there is most likely use of plastic water bottles. There is no indication that any study, not even casual, has been done to determine the best location for the refilling stations. My casual observation sees that, like the usage of the bicycle pumping station nearby, there would be little demand for a water refilling station outside Town Hall. In fact, there are many businesses within a few feet that are willing to fill bottles for people. So why there, if not just for show? The library may have fairly constant foot traffic, though its constituents can also “fill up” inside. For those not going inside, again, it is within feet of willing, refilling businesses.

Perhaps a better location or two (Housie just happens to be “near” the park, so it gets a pass) would be places where people congregate, especially youth and their supporters. I would suggest the baseball field water fountain gets replaced with a modern filling station, add one closer to Railroad Street Youth Project’s outdoor activity area. How about up by the public beach at Lake Mansfield, or some of the many popular hiking trails?

Install them on purpose, not just for show. And stop with the clever marketing designed to dupe the voters of Great Barrington.

Steve Farina
Great Barrington