Study finds high level of bacteria in bottled water in Canada

A Montreal study finds heterotrophic bacteria counts, in more than 70 percent of bottled water samples, exceed the recommended limits specified by the United States Pharmacopeia (USP). Researchers from Ccrest laboratories report their results today at the 110th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in San Diego.

“Despite having the cleanest tap water a large number of urban Canadians are switching over to bottled water for their daily hydration requirements. Unsurprisingly, the consumer assumes that since bottled water carries a price tag, it is purer and safer than most tap water,” says Sonish Azam, a researcher on the study.

Regulatory bodies such as Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Health Canada have not set a limit for the heterotrophic bacteria counts in bottled drinking water. However, according to the USP not more than 500 colony forming units (cfu) per milliliter should be present in drinking water.

The study was initiated in response to a Ccrest employee’s complaint of fowl taste and sickness after consumption of bottled water at the company. Azam and her colleagues Ali Khamessan and Massimo Marino randomly purchased several brands of bottled water from a local marketplace and subjected them to microbiological analysis. They discovered more than 70 percent of famous brands tested did not meet the USP specifications for drinking water.

“Heterotrophic bacteria counts in some of the bottles were found to be in revolting figures of one hundred times more than the permitted limit,” says Azam. In comparison the average microbial count for different tap water samples was 170 cfu/mL.

Azam stresses that these bacteria most likely do not cause disease and they have not confirmed the presence of disease-causing bacteria, but the high levels of bacteria in bottled water could pose a risk for vulnerable populations such as pregnant women, infants, immunocompromised patients and the elderly.

“Bottled water is not expected to be free from microorganisms but the cfu observed in this study is surprisingly very high. Therefore, it is strongly recommended to establish a limit for the heterotrophic bacteria count as well as to identify the nature of microorganisms present in the bottled water,” says Azam.


A live interview with Azam and her colleagues will be webcast Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 10:00 a.m. PDT, over the ASM Live uStream channel ( Questions will be taken from the audience via chat room and Twitter.

More information on this and other presentations can be found online in the 110th ASM General Meeting Press Kit at or by contacting Jim Sliwa ( or 202.942.9297) in the ASM Office of Communications.

WERU coverage of “Tapped” documentary showing and panel

Executive Producer/Host: Amy Browne

Contributor: Meredith DeFrancesco

On Tuesday, the Lamoine Conservation Commission, the Bar Harbor Conservation Commission, the Union River Watershed Coalition, and Food & Water Watch, sponsored a showing of the documentary film “Tapped” and a panel discussion on bottled water and its impacts.   Today we bring you excerpts from the panel discussion and question and answer session.  The panelists are Rep. Jim Schatz of Blue Hill; Emily Posner, Coordinator for Defending Water for Life in Maine; Daphne Loring, Coordinator at the Maine Fair Trade Campaign;  and Willem Brutsaert, an Environmental Engineer Professor at the University of Maine, and expert in groundwater and surface water hydrology.

(Recorded by Meredith DeFrancesco;  Edited by Amy Browne)

original link HERE

icon for podpress Standard Podcast [57:53m]: Play Online at WERU

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Water bottles: billions sold each year

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Some folks buy bottled water because it tastes better than what they can get from the tap. The taste of the water, regardless of its source, is based on dissolved mineral and the way its disinfected method. Some municipalities add a small amount of chlorine to the water. Bottled water manufacturers often use other methods to avoid the after taste.

According to , Americans purchase nearly 30 billion bottle of water each year! Less than 30% are recycled.

“Sometimes I recycle them. Sometimes I don’t,” Chris Wozny from West Springfield admitted to 22News on Wednesday, “Depending on how lazy I am that day.”

Wozny said he drinks three to four cases of water a week.

By recycling, raw materials are not only conserved, energy is saved. states that 1/3 the energy is required to recycle an old plastic bottle than to start from scratch. Recycled plastic can also be made into carpet, fleece clothing, and decking.

A Poland Spring half liter bottle stands about 8” high. It is one of the shorter bottles of water sold. If 29.8 billion of these bottles (the number of water bottles Americans buy each year) were stacked end to end, they would circle the earth the earth more than 150 times!

Poland Spring , like some other manufactures, has changed the design of its bottles to incorporate less plastic.

Poland Spring issue still boiling

It is unfortunate that you have chosen to give former law Professor Orlando Delogu what appears to be the final word on the issue of large water extractions in the town of Wells. He is long on pronouncements and short on insight, with a narrow lens through which he decides what is good for us and what is not.

Equally inappropriate is your headline for his April 27 column, which continues to muddy the issue of water extraction (“There’s no way Poland Spring could have depleted water in Wells”). Continue reading

Bottlers fight push for federal water tax

Funds would fix public systems

By Alan Wirzbicki, Globe Correspondent  |  May 10, 2010

WASHINGTON — An effort in Congress to spend tens of billions of dollars to fix the nation’s aging water systems is facing stiff opposition from soda and bottled water companies, which are major beneficiaries of publicly owned supplies but are fighting a proposal to tax them to pay for the upgrades.

The chief sponsor of the legislation said the catastrophic Massachusetts Water Resources Authority rupture in Weston on May 1, which affected 2 million people in Greater Boston for three days, could reshape the debate in Washington by highlighting the urgent need to find new ways to pay for improved pipelines, pumping stations, and backup systems.

“We’re zeroing in on people who get a disproportionate benefit and rely on safe, secure water sources,’’ said Representative Earl Blumenauer, an Oregon Democrat who introduced legislation that would raise $10 billion annually — including $3.5 billion for drinking water systems — through a tax on bottlers and other water-dependent industries.

The proposal has potentially far-reaching consequences because it would substantially increase the role of the federal government in financing repairs to municipal tap water systems, something advocates say is long overdue.

But soda and bottled water companies — already battered by attacks from environmental groups over their plastic packaging — said the cost of upgrading such components as reservoirs and aqueducts should be shared more broadly.

“The Blumenauer bill is singling out one product unfairly and disproportionately, and it’s not going to solve the problem,’’ said Tom Lauria, a spokesman for the International Bottled Water Association, a trade group that represents bottlers, distributors, and suppliers. “This is a gigantic undertaking. This is like the space program, something that goes way beyond taking out a vendetta on one politically incorrect product.’’

Tracey Halliday, a spokeswoman for the American Beverage Association, which represents big soft drink companies, said they also are opposed to the legislation.

Bottlers use municipal water for many drinks, including filtered and distilled water. Company executives contend that they are modest water consumers compared with farms and factories.

Brian Flaherty, a vice president of Nestlé Waters North America, the nation’s biggest bottled water company, said its products account for about 0.001 percent of all water used in the United States. That includes bottled water from privately owned springs such as Nestlé’s Poland Spring in Maine, which would also be taxed under the plan.

But Blumenauer and his allies maintain that the alternative to the proposed 4 cents-per-bottle tax would be to force the upgrade costs on all taxpayers. The proposed tax would exempt juice, milk, and alcoholic beverages.

There is little dispute that the country faces crumbling water systems in many cities. But while Congress has long recognized the problem, lawmakers have struggled to find a funding source as deficits balloon.

“No one wants to pay a fee, but at the same time how do we pay for it?’’ said Representative William D. Delahunt, Democrat of Quincy, who is a cosponsor of the legislation. “We can’t continue to borrow.’’

Late last week, Representative John F. Tierney, Democrat of Salem, joined Delahunt as a cosponsor. “It was only last year that Gloucester residents had to boil their water for weeks, which resulted in great cost to families and small businesses. The recent water main break in Weston only adds to the urgency to ensure that our nation’s infrastructure is improved and modernized,’’ he said.

Water systems across the United States face about $335 billion in repairs and other work over the next 20 years, according to a survey by the Environmental Protection Agency, including $6.8 billion in Massachusetts. About 240,000 breaks occur each year, and aging pipes leak about 7 billion gallons a day.

D. Wayne Klotz, a civil engineer in Houston and former president of the American Society of Civil Engineers, which backs Blumenauer’s plan, said local authorities have been continually playing catch-up as a result of inadequate funding.

“We operate on the ‘patch and pray’ method. We wait for something to break, patch it, and pray that something else doesn’t break,’’ he said. “That’s our strategy.’’

The broken clamp that caused the break in Weston was only seven years old, but in many parts of Massachusetts, pipes and pumping stations are decades old. The proposed money could also be used for backup systems, a spokeswoman for Blumenauer said. Massachusetts officials have said a backup system might have ameliorated the effects of the Weston pipe break.

Maintaining drinking water systems has traditionally been a state and local responsibility, said Tom Curtis, the deputy executive director of the American Water Works Association, which represents municipal tap water systems. Almost no federal aid was available until Congress set up a state subsidy program in 1996.

While not talking about Massachusetts specifically, Curtis said most of the blame for the decrepit state of water infrastructure nationwide belongs to local politicians who have been reluctant to risk voter ire by raising water rates.

“Cellphone bills go up, cable TV goes up, gas goes up,’’ he said, while water rates have generally not gone up enough to cover needs. “No one wants to pay more.’’

Congress now provides about $800 million of the roughly $30 billion spent every year on clean water, Curtis said, with states and cities paying the rest. Massachusetts received about $70 million from Washington this year, but $52.2 million of that was one-time stimulus money specifically for drinking water projects.

Scott Jordan, the state’s deputy secretary for capital finance and intergovernmental affairs, said Massachusetts was able to stretch those dollars by using them as collateral for water bonds. Federal funds had helped underwrite $908 million in drinking water infrastructure statewide since the program’s inception, he said.

Ten projects overseen by the MWRA received federal funding through 2009, according to figures provided by the agency, including $2 million for the Quabbin Reservoir, $140.1 million for the Walnut Hill treatment plant in Marlborough, and $200,000 for the aqueduct supply mains in Weston. The MWRA is also seeking $34 million in federal funds to help build a UV disinfection system at the Carroll treatment plant in Southborough, and $40.4 million to complete a covered storage facility at Spot Pond in Stoneham.

Blumenauer’s bill would also slightly raise tax rates for big companies and impose a tax on products designed to go down the drain — including toothpaste and toilet paper — to pay for waste-water system upgrades.

The prospects of Blumenauer’s bill are uncertain. The Oregon representative acknowledged that persuading Congress to approve new taxes to help local water authorities would be an uphill battle.

“People aren’t rushing to embrace this in a tough election year. Everybody wants somebody else to pay for it,’’ he said. “Congress just has to face up to what it’s going to take to rebuild this country.’’