Water protest comes up dry

Water sold in Acadia National Park comes in cardboard cartons, not plastic bottles. ISLANDER PHOTO BY DICK BROOM

Water sold in Acadia National Park comes in cardboard cartons, not plastic bottles.

ACADIA NAT’L PARK — Officials of an environmental advocacy organization that last week protested the sale of bottled water in Acadia admitted this week they are aware that bottled water has not been sold in the park for more than a year.

Corporate Accountability International (CAI) brought its “Think Outside the Bottle” (TOB) campaign to Mount Desert Island, gathering petition signatures on the Bar Harbor Village Green urging Acadia officials to join other National Park Service units in banning bottled water sales. Members of the group, which is based in Boston, said their aim is to reduce the amount of plastic that enters the waste stream and harms the environment.

But Dawnland LLC, which has an exclusive contract to sell food and beverages in the park, has not sold bottled water since taking over operation of the gift shops at Jordan Pond House, Thunder Hole and Cadillac Mountain summit in April 2014. Water is sold only in cartons.

“It’s a cardboard box, similar to what coconut water comes in,” said Ed Noonan, general manager of Dawnland. “It’s biodegradable and much more eco-friendly than plastic bottles.”

Information on the side of each water carton says that 76 percent of its content is from trees, “making it one of the most sustainable beverage packages available.” However, it cannot be recycled through the most commonly used processes. “Our boxes are recyclable only where facilities exist,” the text on the side of the carton states.

The gift shops operated by Dawnland are the only places in Acadia where water is sold.

In all of its materials about the TOB campaign, CAI refers specifically to its opposition to bottled water, not packaged water in general. The group’s website says the campaign promotes “public funding for our public water systems and challenges the misleading marketing of the bottled-water industry.”

Lauren DeRusha, national organizer for the Think Outside the Bottle campaign, said in an email to the Islander on Wednesday, “We use ‘bottled-water free’ as an umbrella term, as there are multiple forms of packaged water.

“Packaged water in any form … perpetuates the commoditization of water rather than upholding its status as a public resource and a human right.”

Noonan said of the TOB campaign, “We recognize their effort and don’t disagree with it and are currently in talks with them and the park about ways that we can be a little bit more environmentally friendly.”

June Devis Fruto, Acadia’s concessions specialist, met with members of TOB last week. She said they talked about their common interest in encouraging people to carry containers that can be refilled with tap water, as well as Dawnland’s goal of installing water refill stations at some point.

“We are all working collectively to move in that direction,” Fruto said.

Gary Friedman, a member of the Bar Harbor Town Council, last week expressed support for the TOB campaign.

Contacted Tuesday, he said, “In the case of Acadia, the focus is to go bottled- and packaged-water free.” He pointed out that the water cartons sold in Acadia cannot be recycled locally.

Friedman said part of the mission of the National Park Service is to educate the public about the responsible use and management of natural resources.

“Here on MDI and in Bar Harbor in particular, … we have one of the best sources of water in the world,” he said. “So, to spend the money and the resources to haul water from off-island to sell in the park is just a tip of the hat to the bottled water industry, which has created consumer demand for a product that is unnecessary and ends up as litter in many cases and costs more than gasoline.”

Friedman said he hopes Acadia will join other national parks in limiting the sale of packaged water. He said that if Dawnland were to install water refilling stations and sell reusable bottles at its three gift shops, it could be “part of the educational experience that visitors have.”

The packaged water that Dawnland sells is produced by Boxed Water is Better LLC, of Grand Rapids, Mich. The water carton itself is made by Elopak, a Norwegian company.

According to the company’s website, the inside of the carton is lined with a thin layer of polyethylene (PE). Elopak says its “renewable alternative” is made from “biomass from second generation feedstock,” which “reduces the [carbon] footprint of our cartons.”


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