An article for the April Special Town Meeting -- thought to be the first brought by high school students in Arlington -- seeks a ban on plastic bottles like the one that took effect Jan. 1 in Concord.
"We are very proud and hope to inspire other students," said Amy Currul, 18.
Marie Krepelka, the selectmen's administrator, whose time at Town Hall dates to 1959, said she knows of no Town Meeting article brought by high school students in the past.
Joining to explain the article were Sonia Zacher, 18, and Marina Milan, 17. All are seniors and active with SAVE, which stands for Students Against Violating the Environment. Nigel Kraus is their adviser.
At a noisy Jam 'n Java on Thursday, Feb. 7, they discussed the article, to be heard April 24, that aims to ban the sale of single-serve polyethylene terephthalate (PET) water bottles.
Viewing 1-liter (34-ounce) plastic bottles as hurtful to the environment and humans, members of SAVE have been trying for years to have four machines that serve such water bottles removed from the cafeteria at AHS.
"All four of the machines are just for plastic water bottles, the exact ones we are trying to ban," Currul noted, "and we have been trying to get rid of the machines as a club since I was a freshman. I imagine someone tried before then as well."
She said that an alternative dispenser had been suggested, a filtration machine that would be installed on a wall in the cafeteria and students would pay a quarter to get water for their reusable water bottles.
SAVE has been unsuccessful in its efforts at the school.
Spurred by the push for a ban in Concord, the students collected 108 signatures to place an article on the warrant and submitted them on Feb. 5, the only day they could. Currul turned 18 the day before and registered to vote that day so she could add her signature.
Most of those signing the petition were adults and family friends, they said. Among the signers, Currul said, were other students. She called them "incredibly passionate."
Before the current effort, members of SAVE have made annual presentations to freshman science classes during Earth Week, in April, showing that tap water is as safe to drink as bottled -- "and even better," Currul said, "because chemicals haven't seeped into it and it hasn't been stored in plastic for six months."
Called benefit to town, environment
In a statement, the students wrote: "We are seeking this ban because we believe that it will truly benefit the people of Arlington and the environment.
"The production and transportation of bottled water releases large amounts of carbon dioxide and other damaging gases into the atmosphere. The production alone uses more than 17 million barrels of crude oil every year.
"Furthermore, the PET bottles contaminate the water inside with dangerous chemicals, such as BPA [Bisphenol A], which mimics estrogen. Many bottled water companies actually bottle tap water or sell water that simply does not pass health regulations.
"According to Business Insider, 'While tap water must be checked daily under a rigorous inspection regime, by contrast, bottled makers are only required to undertake monthly testing at source”. Additionally, testing conducted by the MWRA, in 2008, Arlington had some of the cleanest tap water in the nation.
We appreciate your interest in this and our statement or variation thereof may be used in any publication.
Currul, the president of SAVE who is interested in pursuing a career in journalism, told a Globe reporter that the students believe the ban could pass in Arlington. She said they encountered some opposition while gathering signatures.
On Feb. 6, the Chamber of Commerce emailed a one-question survey to its members. The email noted it was doing so "on behalf of" of The Arlington Advocate. The question asked whether the proposed ban would affect your business -- yes or no.
Responding to the claim that a ban would encourage buying soda, Milan, whose mother is the town's recycling coordinator, told Boston.com that she does not think that people who try not to drink much soda would drink more if the ban passes. She said the students want people to carry their own reusable bottles to fill with tap water.
Zacher said banning the water bottles would help eliminate them from collecting in landfills and taking centuries to decompose. She said the negative impact the plastic bottles have on the environment outweigh the profits made from selling the bottles.
The students are not Town Meeting members but will be reaching out to elected members in the upcoming weeks. Zacher's neighbor is longtime member and former moderator Harry McCabe. They expect to make a presentation about water bottles April 24.
Krepelka got feedback from Lyons
As for history, Krepelka said Feb. 12 that she had called Charles Lyons, elected to the School Committee in 1972 and then a longtime selectman. Lyons confirmed her memory that no student has submitted an article to Town Meeting.
The earliest that could have occurred was in the 1970s, when the voting age in Massachusetts was dropped to 18. The 26th amendment to the U.S. Constitution barred states from setting a voting age higher than 18.
"I started working for the Town January 1959 ... and I never remember any students filing a warrant Article," she wrote Feb. 6. "I started attending Town Meeting in 1959, because I worked for the town manager [Ed Monahan] and became a Town Meeting member in 1970.
Zacher said the water bottle ban proposed for Arlington uses much of the language of the Concord ban. Here is the proposed wording:
BYLAW AMENDMENT/SALE OF DRINKING WATER IN SINGLE-SERVE PET BOTTLES
To see if the Town will vote to amend the Town Bylaws to prohibit the sale of non-sparkling, unflavored drinking water in single-serving polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles of 1 liter (34 ounces) or less in the Town of Arlington except in the event of an emergency; or take any action related thereto.
Boston.com story, Feb. 12
This story was written Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013, but not published until Feb. 14 because of site issues.