Reps ask government to probe bottled water



Two Democratic representatives have asked the federal government’s internal watchdog to investigate what effect the bottled water industry has on consumer health and the environment.

Albert Wynn (D-MD) and Hilda Solis (D-CA) noted in their letter to the Government Accountability Office that sales of bottled water have tripled over the last decade to more than $10.5 billion yearly, despite the United State having what they called “one of the safest supplies of tap water in the world.”

“Many consumers think that when they buy bottled water, they are consuming water from a pristine natural source that is purer than tap water,” Wynn said. “However, recent media reports have exposed some companies simply bottling and selling tap water. GAO should examine how bottled water is labeled so we know consumers of water are not being deceived.”

GAO typically investigates government programs or, as one GAO staffer put it, anything touched by a federal dollar, but their mission statement includes performing policy analysis for congressional consideration. One current GAO investigation is evaluating whether or not the Gettysburg National Military Park and associated nonprofit Gettysburg Foundation properly handled $125 million in private and federal funds.

The bottled water industry is neither funded nor subsidized by the federal government, but a spokesman for the House Committee on Energy and Commerce said GAO could report on what federal labeling requirements may exist for bottled water.

The representatives’ letter to the GAO also asked the Office to examine the Environmental Protection Agency’s failure to update neither its list of drinking water contaminants nor standards for the carcinogen trichloroethylene.

The representatives dedicated the majority of their GAO-bound letter to trichloroethylene concerns, but in public statements emphasized the bottled water inquiry.

In a press release, the International Bottled Water Association announced that the association is ready to work with the GAO, and to demonstrate what it termed the industry’s record of environmental stewardship and sustainability practices.