GRAND RAPIDS — For the past 4 1/2 years, city officials proudly have handed out bottles of water at city-sponsored meetings and events.
The half-liter bottles, with their “Grand Rapids Water System” label, now appear doomed as city commissioners become aware of the environmental footprint those plastic bottles carry.
Hal Froot, a former City Commission candidate, raised the issue last week when he asked commissioners to stop buying disposable bottles filled with city water, and instead fill a pitcher and set out glasses.
Froot is part of a growing environmental movement that argues plastic water bottles are unnecessary in areas where tap water is plentiful and healthy.
On average, each plastic bottle takes about a quarter to a third of a liter of oil to produce and transport to its final destination, said Froot, citing environmental sources.
Several green-minded commissioners, including Mayor George Heartwell, said Froot has a point.
“There are so many things we do for our convenience or out of habit that aren’t necessarily good for the environment,” Heartwell said.
The mayor, who has preached sustainability as a cornerstone of his tenure, said he will ask Corky Overmyer, the city’s sustainability director, to look into the issue.
“Good question,” said Overmyer when asked about the city’s bottled water. “That’s been puzzling me a little myself.”
The city buys its bottled water from the Northern Falls Water Co., a unit of Dean Foods Inc. The Kentwood plant puts Grand Rapids tap water through reverse osmosis filters before bottling it.
Second Ward City Commissioner David LaGrand, questioned the wisdom of drinking bottled water because the fluoride has been removed.
“We live in a city which put up a statue because we’re proud of being the first to put fluoride in our water,” he said.
Second Ward City Commissioner Rosalynn Bliss said she has had several constituents bring up the issue over the past year.
“I’ve never been a big fan of bottled water,” said Bliss, who said she no longer will imbibe from the water bottle that’s placed at the commission table.
Rachel Hood, executive director of the West Michigan Environmental Action Council, said she also has misgivings about the city’s water bottles, but never raised the issue.
“It’s something I’ve thought about while sitting in committee meetings,” Hood said. “But we have so many other large battles to fight.”