Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell denied that he lifted a ban on the state government purchasing bottled water at the behest of friends in the bottled water industry, according to a report in the Washington Post.
The ban was originally enacted by the previous administration of Gov. Timothy M. Kaine as part of broader efforts to improve the sustainability of government agencies. The ban directed state agencies to not buy bottled water except in cases of emergency or health needs.
The Sierra Club attacked the reversal, describing the bottled water industry as a major source of unnecessary waste. The state spent about $126,000 on bottled water in the last fiscal year.
The McDonnell administration cited fears that the ban would adverse effect local bottled water suppliers as the reason behind the decision to reverse the ban. But Corporate Accountability, a non-profit organization headquartered in Boston, Mass., pointed to ties between Gov. McDonnell and the bottling industry’s lobbyist group in Virginia. One of Gov. McDonnell’s former education advisors, Chris Saxman, is an employee of Shenandoah Valley Water Co., one of the biggest water bottling companies in the state, and a board member of the International Bottled Water Association, according to the Washington Post. According to Corporate Accountability, Shenandoah Valley Water generated $101,000 in revenues from selling to state agencies in the 2009 fiscal year.
Saxman denied having any contact with the governor’s office regarding the decision, describing such contact as “inappropriate.” He also said that Shenandoah generates most of its sales from five-gallon containers, not single-use bottles.
A spokesperson for the administration says the decision gives state agencies the flexibility to address their water needs in as cost-effective a manner as possible, while overturning a measure that targeted an important Virginia business sector.
New York, Illinois and Colorado had also cut state spending on bottled water. New York City has also cut bottled water use and is promoting the use of water fountains around the city. Meanwhile, a new trend is emerging in the bottled water market as bio-plastic bottles made 100 percent from plants, as opposed to the mixed composition bottles that came out in recent years, begin to enter the market.