Erin to continue selling bottled water at town facilities

Town council here has decided to continue selling bottled water in town facilities, but hasn’t ruled out the possibility of also installing refilling stations.

At its Feb. 3 meeting, council heard from town staff and a representative from Nestle Waters Canada, with both saying water represents a minority of the plastic bottles sold in town facilities.

Town facility manager Graham Smith said the town sells at least 80 per cent more pop, juice and power drinks than water.

However, both representatives, as well as council, acknowledged it is worthwhile to provide both an area where reusable bottles can be filled as well as a location to sell plastic water bottles.

“We are fully supportive of the sole use of municipal tap water in pitchers during council, committee and internal staff meetings,” John Challinor, director of corporate affairs for Nestle Waters Canada, said in his presentation. “We simply believe that city staff and local residents should have the freedom of choice to purchase and consume the legal, federally-regulated beverage of their choice on municipal property, particularly one featuring the health and wellness attributes that water does.”

One concern brought up surrounding water refilling stations in town facilities was hygiene.

“The challenge with all of these kinds of systems is that once they’re touched they’re contaminated,” Challinor said. “And you’ve got to be on top of them all the time.”

Smith said town facilities are already regularly inspected by the health unit and the refilling stations would be added to the inspection list.

Another concern was the cost of each unit. Smith said each refilling station would cost a little over $3,000 and have a feature that allows the town to monitor how many plastic water bottles the station has saved from landfill or recycling.

Councillors Jeff Duncan and John Brennan asked whether it was possible to install higher faucets in select facility bathrooms to accommodate taller reusable containers in an effort to help save costs.

Smith said this is already available in the Hillsburgh arena because the old snack bar is now accessible to visitors looking for a water refill. He said it would likely be possible in bathrooms in the other two facilities. However, Smith said other municipalities seem to be going the route of installing refilling stations.

Council decided to consider the installation of refilling stations in this year’s budget.