Buy What You Own?
activist questions the logic, and health risks, of purchasing
believe that water is a basic human right,” said Ruth Caplan,
campaign coordinator with Alliance for Democracy. She is spearheading
the group’s efforts to change the way you think about bottled
water. Commodifying water, putting it into a bottle and selling
at the market price is, according to the AFD, a very big first
step toward getting people to think about water as just another
product on supermarket shelves.
way the advertising is being done by Pepsi, Coke and Nestle,
the ‘big three,’ they insinuate that tap water is not safe
and the water in their bottles is safer,” said Caplan, a Washington,
D.C.-based author who will be in Albany today (Thursday) to
speak on this issue. “There is a not-very-subtle message that
municipal water is not safe to drink. And if you want to be
healthy, drink bottled water. They don’t say that overtly,
but implicitly, that is the message.”
In response to a manipulated demand, these corporations have
created massive alternative water distribution systems. Look
no farther than Latham: Pepsi is the largest user of Latham’s
municipal water. In 2004, it pulled 115.5 million gallons
of the total 4 billion gallons that pump out every year from
the Latham supply, to be bottled and sold as Aquafina. They
take the water from the municipal supply, truck it to their
bottling facilities, truck it to the store for the end user—who
then drives to the store to purchase it at inflated costs.
Contrast that, she said, with tap water. “There is very little
energy used to ship tap water from the source—the Catskills—to
its destination, a home.” Tap water flows, for the most part,
she said, under the pull of gravity. “If you are concerned
at all with global warming, then this should be a major concern.”
She also points out concern about the whole toxic life cycle
of the plastic. “From the production of the plastic—Cancer
Alley [the Louisiana region where much of the country’s plastic
packaging is manufactured, and also where, it is alleged,
there is a higher incidence of some cancers] and all the troubles
there—then there is the problem of the disposal of the bottles
themselves,” she said. “Billions and billions of bottles.
What do you do with these bottles? Most of them are thrown
away. These are made for one usage and then to be thrown away.”
Those billions and billions of disposable bottles of water
consumed yearly not only create untold costs to the environment
but also possible costs to public health. Water in bottles
is considered a food, she said, therefore not regulated by
the Environmental Protection Agency. It falls under the jurisdiction
of the Food and Drug Administration and the FDA is not set
up to test water sources.
are no FDA regulations for arsenic in water, for example,”
she said. Further, she pointed to concern with what happens
to the water when it is in the plastic bottles during shipping.
“They have found bacteria in the bottled water. There is also
concern about leeching of toxic chemicals into the water.
You don’t know if the water has sat in a hot truck somewhere,
where it has been stored.” The National Resource Defense Council
tested more than 1,000 bottles of 103 brands of bottled water
and found contamination in excess of allowable limits in at
least one sample from about one-third of the brands. These
contaminates included synthetic organics, bacteria and arsenic,
meets all the FDA standards for purified water,” said a Pepsi
representative. Pepsi runs the water through a filtering system
called HydRo-7 Purification. It is a seven-step process that
filters the water, which includes reverse osmosis to purify
the water. It basically removes everything from the water.
“Cosumers appreciate this convienent, high-quality water for
their on-the-go lifestyles.” The representative said that
Aquafina is compliant with all government regulations.
But, for the most part, Caplan said, the testing of the water
in the bottles is done by the industry itself. “And if people
believe that the big corporation that is selling them water
and testing the water is more reliable than an independent
federal agency, I think that’s too bad.”
There are concerns, too, about the plastics used in the bottles.
“With the large five-gallon polycarbonate bottles, there is
a real concern that they leech bisphenol A, which is a hormone
disrupter. It can increase prostate tumor proliferation, change
brain chemistry and impact behavior, like hyperactivity.”
And although there is little information on the negative impacts
of the polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles (the smaller,
single-serving sizes), it could just be that the research
hasn’t been done yet, she said. “And consumers have been completely
convinced that these bottles are safe.”
What does Caplan suggest if you want ultra-filtered water?
Get yourself a glass, or lined-aluminum, bottle and a filter
system for your tap and enjoy.
Ruth Caplan will speak at Albany Public Library today (Thursday,
June 8) at noon and again at 7 PM. The public forums will
be hosted by the Alliance for Democracy.
Weld, the multimillionaire former Massachusetts
governor, dropped out of the running to become
governor of New York state because he felt it
would be “too expensive and divisive to wage a
summer-long battle.” Entering the run for governor
last fall, Weld was supported by many well-known
politicians, including Gov. George Pataki and
former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani.
This support enabled Weld to get on the primary
ballot even though he lost to Assemblyman John
Faso at the GOP convention. But now his supporters
have changed their minds. Politicians who once
backed Weld have now decided to change their support
and focus on Faso in the name of “party unity”
and in hopes of beating front runner Attorney
General Eliot Spitzer.
reported Monday that “Congressmen and their aides
took free trips worth over $50 million paid for
by corporations, trade associations, and other
private groups between January 2000 and June 2005.”
Companies such as Microsoft and Walt Disney Co.
have sponsored these so-called “business trips”
to “spots such as Paris, Hawaii, and Colorado
ski-resorts,” wrote Thomas Ferraro for Reuters.
Apparently, these spots are the only places where
the politicians feel that they can concentrate
and do business. Ferraro also said that an associate
spokesman, Thomas White, was quoted as saying:
“Such getaways provide an opportunity for us to
discuss our issues with members in an atmosphere
where you are not time constrained. If you try
to talk to a member for any great length of time
. . . in Washington, they are simply too busy.”
Senate Wednesday rejected President Bush’s latest
attempt to push through a constitutional amendment
banning same-sex marriage. In what many see as
election-year pandering, Bush began to stump for
the legislation in May. Supporters of the amendment
came 11 votes short of the needed votes on Senate
floor. Republicans in the House, however, have
vowed to take up the amendment later in the year,
saying that 45 states have passed similar legislation.
“The voice of the people has been heard loud and
clear,” Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., said. Sen.
Richard Durbin, D-Ill., said on the floor, “I
think, sadly, most people realize there’s political
few years ago, when Lark Street’s Bryn Mawr Book
Shop closed its doors, some neighborhood friends
decided that they didn’t want to lose the presence
of a Lark Street bookstore. Mark Brogna, Bill
Pettit and John McLennan came together in December
2002 to buy the store’s inventory and to lease
the space as the Lark Street Bookshop.
Over the course of the three-and-a-half years
of the Lark Street Bookshop’s existence, it has
been a steadfast source of support for the Albany
arts scene, hosting a monthly singer-songwriter
series, poetry readings, knitting groups and neighborhood
get-togethers, often providing home-baked goods
and fair-trade coffee.
According to Pettit, the book shop received a
letter in the mail from a lawyer a couple of months
ago stating that their lease was canceled effective
June 30. When they contacted the lawyer, he referred
the owners to a real-estate agent who quoted them
“an outrageous” purchase price, one that the shop
simply could not afford, especially when they
considered the condo fees and taxes that applied
to the property. After exploring all their options,
the owners decided that they had no option but
to close their doors. In the meantime, everything
in the store is on sale.
was told that plans are in the works for a big
musical send-off bash on or around the closing
date (June 30); watch the calendar listings for
group’s “Dirty Dozen” names the usual suspects and the government
agencies tasked to police them
One year, it was an egg carton con taining a dozen misshapen
eggs. Another, it was a toxic golf ball perched on a tee oozing
with the winner’s name. This year, it was a pair of shoes,
mounted to a plaque, of specific children who were affected
by toxic waste. Last Thursday in Albany, members of the Citizen’s
Environmental Coalition (CEC) revealed the third annual Dirty
Dozen Awards in the hope of exposing companies who pose environmental
threats. A committee of environmental professionals, public-health
experts, and worker, health and safety activists from all
over New York state selected the 12 awardees.
This year’s awards focused specifically on the children of
the neighborhoods in which these industrial companies and
landfills reside. “The awards this year focus on how the environmental
problems we’re highlighting are affecting our children and
our future,” said Laura McCarthy, program associate with the
CEC. “I’d like the winners this year to ‘walk a mile in these
shoes’—the shoes of the children affected by groundwater contamination,
the waste site with no warning signs, or the air pollution
in their schools and homes.”
Some of the kids in possible jeopardy, the CEC said, attend
the two schools located directly across the street from Lafarge
Building Materials in Ravena. The French-owned company made
the Dirty Dozen list (for the second year in a row) by pushing
ahead with its plan to burn 4.8 million tires in cement kilns.
The New York state Department of Environmental Conservation
made the Dirty Dozen list, too, for approving the tire-burning
Critics claim emissions from tire burning, which include heavy
metals and chlorine, could increase the risk of brain damage
in children. “Many of the pollutants related to tire-burning
are recognized as carcinogens and both reproductive and developmental
toxins,” said environmental group Friends of Hudson. “Research
has shown that children, pregnant women, immunosuppressed
individuals and those with specific genetic susceptibility
are uniquely vulnerable to the damage and disease caused by
many of the emissions which may result from burning tires.”
But burning tires actually will benefit the environment, Lafarge
spokesman David Vahue said. Not only will it reduce the company’s
dependency on coal, it will help curb the overabundant supply
of waste tires. There are nearly 19 million tires thrown away
yearly in New York state alone, he said. “If you set all of
the tires side by side they would stretch from Ravena to San
Fransisco.” At an annual savings of $1 million (waste tires
are a lot cheaper than coal), Lafarge is happy to take the
tires off the state’s hands. And the DEC defends its choice
to allow Lafarge to burn tires, stating that the company has
met all the regulatory standards.
Plan on fishing this summer? Might want to reconsider your
trip to Nassau Lake. Elevated levels of PCBs were found in
the flesh of the lake’s fish due to the dumping of 46,000
tons of liquid toxic waste in the Dewey Loeffel Landfill in
Nassau, the CEC said. The wastes were transferred from companies
such as GE to the landfill. Oils, paints and toxic chemicals,
such as Benzene, have leached into the ground, contaminating
not only Nassau Lake and its fish but also the wells of the
nearby inhabitants of Nassau.
According to the CEC, “In 1992, it was discovered that groundwater
contamination was effecting area wells, and while filters
were installed to alleviate this danger . . . the DEC is holding
off on the construction of the Leachate Collection Treatment
United . . . which would lessen the danger to nearby homeowner
In October 2002, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer requested a pollutant
study in and around the lake. “The Dewey landfill has essentially
turned Nassau Lake into a garbage dump,” Schumer said. “As
a result, people can’t swim, fish or drink the water there.
I think the community deserves an explanation.” The CEC is
hoping the awarded Dirty Dozen plaque will help GE and the
DEC change their dirty ways and clean up their acts, saving
not only the fish but securing a healthy future for neighboring
In response to appearing twice in this year’s Dirty Dozen
list, the DEC issued a statement ensuring their constant actions
to “protect New York state’s precious natural resources and
goal of this award is to get the bad actors to take steps
in the right direction. We hope this event will encourage
them to do so,” said McCarthy. Other winners include Hopewell
Precision Inc., IBM, the Environmental Protection Agency for
the Peter Cooper Superfund site, West Valley Demonstration
Project, Keyspan’s Northport and Port Jefferson Power Plants,
Indian Point Power Plant, New York Organic Fertilizer Co.
and Willet Dairy.
the Desmond Hotel in Colonie on Saturday, Eliot Spitzer spoke
at the Working Families Party’s state convention. The party,
which informally endorsed Spitzer in January 2005, officially
endorsed the popular Democrat in the gubernatorial race, saying
that he represented their views on economic and social issues.
They also gave endorsements to Sen. Hillary Clinton in her
reelection bid and Andrew Cuomo in his run for attorney general.
The WFP hopes that Spitzer will bring voters to their line
on election day. Alex Navarro, communications director for
the party, said, “In 2004, the WFP’s only statewide candidate,
Sen. Charles Schumer, received 168,000 votes on the WFP line.”
Out of the statewide candidates for this year’s election,
he said the WFP’s goal for Spitzer is around 200,000 votes.
The WFP has more than 33,000 members and addresses issues
such as health care, jobs and education for the poor, working
and middle classes.
Something bad happened there.”
—CDTA Route 18 bus, in the midst of a discussion
of haunted houses.
Nader, at a press conference Tuesday supporting
Alice Green, in response to a question about how
Green could convince Mayor Jerry Jennings to participate
in a debate.
loose ends this week