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

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By Wednesday, Apr 3, 2019 Letters 3

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

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3 Comments   Add Comment

  1. Lois Reynolds says:

    Water in Great Barrington is tested already and we all drink it so what’s the need for a filtration at the filling stations? I agree it might be a good idea to get more ideas on where to place the filling stations……Town Hall area is an ok area where it can be taken care of easily by the town each day and anyone driving by can stop and fill…….but I don’t think anyone has been duped….lets keep it positive and get the best results……..

    1. Steve Farina says:

      Hi Lois,
      Thanks for commenting. I always appreciate a good discussion.
      It would be good to note that the water is tested in all of Great Barrington (of which Housatonic is a part – though having a separate water source).
      I would also like to point out that we don’t “all drink it”. I know for a fact that one of the people responsible for putting forth the water bottle ban, and the promise of the refilling stations,
      does in fact filter her own drinking water in her home in GB – even though it is “safe’.
      As for daily maintenance by the town…that will not happen as there is no need for daily maintenance on these units (cleaning and sanitizing might be nice, but that won’t happen either).
      Not sure who will pull over to fill a water bottle after travelling south on Main St in the summer, but I guess we’ll see…
      And, I am positive: the voters have been duped.

  2. David Long says:

    The ones most “duped” are the folks buying bottled water. It is absurd that there is even demand for repackaged tap water. At least the filling stations will deliver what it advertises.

    And I don’t think one can overrate the importance of how the bottled water ban and the filling stations is already having in raising consciousness about the quality of our municipal water. You point to Housatonic – I have lived in Housie for most of my life and the water has historically been terrible. I would be suspicious of any filling station there that did not filter the water. But remember, Housatonic Water Company is a private business — not Great Barrington town water, which is of much better quality and consistency.

    Anything that weans society away from the wasteful, environmentally destructive habit of buying overpriced water in single use plastic is a good thing. Kudos to Great Barrington for having the courage to try and face the issue squarely.

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