Concord, Mass. is traditionally identified as a historic small town whose most prominent citizen was writer Ralph Waldo Emerson. But after Wednesday night, the town is now known as the first in the country to ban PET bottled water.
After about two hours of debate at Wednesday night's town meeting, Warrant Article 32, the Drinking Water in Single-Serving PET Bottles Bylaw, narrowly passed by fewer than 40 votes, according to reports. The bylaw bans the sale of single-serving PET bottles of 1 liter (34 ounces) or less in Concord, and stores could be fined up to $50 for violating the ban.
Pending approval from the state's attorney general, the ban will take effect Jan. 1, which will make Concord the first town in the nation to pass a bottled water ban.
"Supporters say it's the most sweeping water bottle ban passed by any municipality in the nation and will cut down on pollution and limit exposure to toxic chemicals," according to a report by the AP.
This is the third straight year for this issue to come up for debate in Concord. A similar measure was passed in 2010, but the attorney general denied it because the bylaw wasn't written properly. Last year, the town rejected the proposed bylaw.
Chris Hogan, VP of communications for the International Bottled Water Association, told PlasticsToday the association is "disappointed that a small group of individuals has made the decision to ban the sale of bottled water for a town of 17,000 residents."
"This ban will deprive residents, students, and tourists of their rights as consumers to make healthy choices when it comes to hydration and refreshment. It will also deprive the town of needed tax revenue and harm local businesses that rely on bottled water sales to help keep their doors open," he said.
However, he also added, "In terms of responding to the vote, at this point we are keeping all options on the table to support the rights of consumers to exercise their freedom of choice."
Concord's potential ban echoes recent news that more than 90 universities across the nation are banning or restricting the use of plastic water bottles.
Americans drink nearly 9 billion gallons of bottled water a year, according to the Beverage Marketing Corp. The continuous growth of plastic water bottle consumption in the U.S. has resulted in a $22 billion retail packaged-water industry.
WHDH-TV, an NBC-affiliated television station in Boston, reported passions were high on both sides of the debate Wednesday night.
"This reminds me of a communist country where dictators dictate to the masses what they're allowed to buy," one woman said.
"Clean, safe water is just a small sacrifice," another countered. "We're not gonna solve all the problems of the world but this is our one chance to make a really huge statement to the world."