New Haven city and public school employees and students may have to head to the faucets more often if a new city order passes.
The push to end the city’s purchase of bottled water for its municipal offices and school districts, led by Ward 10 Alderman Justin Elicker FES ’10 SOM ’10, would save the city $32,000 yearly at a time when it needs to close its $8 million budget gap, Elicker said. Sam Bendinelli ’13, the president of Think Outside of the Bottle — which has been supporting Elicker’s efforts — said that he expects that the vote to pass the order will take place in mid-February.
Elicker, who is chair of the city services and environmental policy committee, said that under the policy the city would end the purchase of 5-gallon jugs of bottled water in municipal offices as well as smaller bottles of water that are purchased and resold as a service to New Haven public school students. He added that exceptions for both locales would be included to ensure access to water in emergency situations where clean tap water might not be accessible.
“In my opinion, it’s a no-brainer,” he said. “The irony with the bottled water in municipal offices is that it is just tap water, filtered a little bit, from Worcester, Mass.”
Tap water, he said, is in fact healthier and more stringently tested than bottled water, based on many tests he has asked local water authorities to conduct. With the accessibility of tap water in schools factored into account, he said, there is no reason not to switch.
“The way things stand, people perceive they have to pay $1.50 for [bottle] water every time,” he said. “But the reality is that tap water is of very high quality, so we need to be teaching our kids that tap water is good and healthy.”
Other aldermen agree. Elicker said the order has been co-sponsored by 12 other aldermen, and that none have thus far spoken out against the measure specifically.
Ward 9 Alderman Matt Smith ’98 said the fiscal savings of the proposal were particular important at a time the city is “watching every penny.” He added that the environmental benefits of using less plastic and reduced interstate trucking, which would accompany the measure, were other reasons he strongly supported the proposal.
But Ward 30 Alderman Darnell Goldson said he would prefer to see the measure as part of a larger package.
“This alone is too small to make a real difference, even though it makes everyone feel good,” he said. “It’s not enough to feed the dogs in the animal shelter. I’m willing to support it if there’s willingness on the part of other people to make the major changes that are necessary for our budget.”
Bendinelli said they have been using Facebook to generate interest and support for the measure, and is in the process of putting together a petition to forward to the aldermen signed by students and professors.
So far, four professors have signed the petition, including Gaboury Benoit ’76, a professor of environmental chemistry and environmental engineering. Melissa Goodall, assistant director in the office of sustainability, has also thrown her support behind the group, Bendinelli said.
Elicker said that he estimated the city pay $160 annually to use tap water instead of the same amount of bottled water.