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Bottled-water giant Poland Springs faces public backlash in attempt to crush critical bill: 'All this happened behind closed doors'

"We couldn't believe it."

“We couldn’t believe it."

Photo Credit: Getty

An effort in Maine to protect local springs is facing pushback from Big Water, specifically BlueTriton, which owns the well-known Poland Spring brand. 

As of 2019, Poland Spring, in the water business since 1845, pumped approximately a billion gallons of water from the ground, selling it to around 13 million people in the U.S. annually, according to a report from Vox. 

The water use is concerning to experts studying water tables in Maine, and elsewhere, according to extensive reporting by The New York Times. 

What's the problem? 

Poland Spring's website has a virtual tour of 10 springs, located around the state, where it pumps groundwater to bottle and sell. Maine lawmakers are seeking to safeguard the process with a seven-year sunset date on contracts for "large-scale freshwater pumping by corporations that ship water" out of the state. It also provides more power to local authorities, per the Times. 

BlueTriton seeks up to 45-year pumping contracts, perhaps part of the reason they worked to stall the proposed legislation with an "amendment" from a powerful lobbyist that would "gut" the measure, the Times reported

"We couldn't believe it. Their amendment strikes the entire bill," Maine State Rep. Christopher Kessler said. "Because all this happened behind closed doors, the public doesn't know that Poland Spring stalled the process."

Why is it important? 

Part of the onus for protecting the springs is due to droughts. Maine is coming off periods of "significant" droughts in 2016 and from 2020-22, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

By 2050, some experts predict that over 75% of the world's population will face water scarcity

What's more, the bottled water industry produces millions of "throwaway" bottles, per the Times. Even with recycling programs, there's a deluge of bottles that pile up in trash heaps and other places. More than 10 million tons of plastic ends up in our seas yearly, Plastic Oceans reported

For their part, both Poland Springs and BlueTriton claim to be operating with the environment's health, and providing high-quality water, in mind. 

"[W]e maintain sustainable solutions for our springs and the land around them, keeping high standards for all our products," says the Poland Springs website. 

Officials from other supporters, including utilities, told the Times that profits made from selling water to bottlers are good for the local economy, reducing costs for "ratepayers."  

But the legislative battle in Maine highlights a concern among some experts about the bottled water industry and its impact on water sources across the country. 

"Withdrawals, no matter what the use, influence movement of groundwater," U.S. Geological Survey hydrologist Cheryl Dieter, who is studying the topic, told the Times. 

What's being done to help? 

At-home filters (like this one for under $40) are simple tools to make your faucet water safer for drinking, eliminating the need for plastic bottles. 

You can also cut down on plastic waste and the need for single-use options like Poland Spring's typical offerings by snagging one of The Cool Down's recommendations for the best reusable water bottles

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