September 10, 2008
Mr. Chairman, thank you for calling this hearing today on the quality and environmental impacts of bottled water. I’m sure you would agree that Americans are privy to the best drinking water and bottled water available in the world. There is undoubtedly growing popularity of bottled water and consumers and the general public are justified to ask whether bottled water in America is safe and sustainable. I believe the answer to both of those questions is yes, as we will hear in testimony today.
Due to Senator Vitter’s absence, I would first like to mention how grateful we all are for the bottled water industry’s service to our country in recent catastrophes. The state of Louisiana I’m sure is grateful for the continued assistance. America’s recovery efforts would be severely hindered if it weren’t for their generosity.
Recently, certain Non-Governmental Organizations or NGOs have argued that bottled water poses health risks to humans and is extremely harmful to the environment, spurring some public concern and this hearing. These issues, however, are not new but have been studied for quite some time. Nevertheless, public concern should not be discounted.
The safety of bottled water is comprehensively regulated at the Federal, State, Local and Industry levels. In fact, both the Natural Resource Defense Counsel and the Center for Disease Control note that illness from bottled water has only been the result of rare and isolated incidents, which suggests that the current framework works and further regulation is unnecessary.
The bottled water industry in recognition of environmental concern and shifting consumer preferences have led industry efforts to significantly enhance their sustainability efforts to minimize environmental impact. The production of bottled water, however, does share many of the same environmental impacts as other consumer goods. How many of my colleagues have walked down the supermarket isles lately to find that many products are now packaged as a disposable good. Society has driven the market to produce more disposable goods, putting extreme pressures on municipal waste sites. It is important to note that the proliferation of bottled water and other consumer goods is a consequence of shifting consumer lifestyles. As a former mayor, I sympathize with the concerns of increased pressures on the holding capacity of our countries municipal waste facilities and we as a country need to become more conscious on what we buy and toss into our garbage can.
We will hear testimony today from Dr. Stephen Edberg, Professor Laboratory Medicine and Director of Microbiology at Yale University, whose extensive research is focused on bacteria that are found in the environment that may cause infection in human beings. He will explain to the Committee that concerns over the potential harm to human health are unwarranted and that U.S. bottled water is indeed safe for human consumption.
We will also hear testimony today from Joseph Doss, President and CEO of the International Bottled Water Association, here to discuss industry efforts to ensure consumers receive a safe and sustainable product. He will discuss how they have addressed contamination, mislabeling and waste stream concerns by going above and beyond the requirements imposed under current law through their Model Code, which applies to the overwhelming majority of bottled water sold in the United States.
I hope this hearing provides clarity to the status of bottled water, which is already comprehensively regulated at the Federal, State, Local and Industry levels in order to ensure its safety and sustainability.