406 Dirksen EPW Hearing Room

Frank R. Lautenberg


(Remarks as prepared for delivery)

Let me welcome everyone to today's hearing as we look into the quality of the bottled water Americans are drinking—and the impact that bottled water has on our environment.

Bottled water has become so popular—and so much a part of our culture—that more than half of all Americans drink it, and about a third drink it regularly.

People keep bottled water everywhere—it's in their cars, it's in their gym bags and it's in their homes.

Americans spend more than $8 billion a year on bottled water and that amount is only expected to grow.

With people spending that much money, they are right to expect that their water is safe and clean.

That's what they expect when they turn on their faucet. And that's what they should expect when they turn the cap on a bottle of water.

Let me be clear: bottled water serves some important purposes.

The need for safe, clean bottled water is magnified during an emergency—such as Hurricane Gustav which just passed through the Gulf Coast—when people are evacuated from their homes, or in their homes but without basic utilities.

And it is certainly healthier to purchase water from a vending machine rather than soda.

But what many Americans do not know is that almost 40 percent of bottled water on the market is actually just tap water.

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Some bottlers use additional treatments to clean it; with others, it's merely tap water in a fancy bottle.

In addition, water bottles thrown in the trash have a lasting effect on our environment and the country's continuing energy crisis.

Americans use 2.7 million tons of plastic each year for water bottles.

The amount of oil it takes to produce those water bottles would power more than one million cars and trucks for one year.

And only 14 percent of plastic bottles are recycled, according to one study.

The rest languish in our landfills--and plastic is not biodegradable.

One solution is to encourage Americans to drink more tap water—either right from the tap or with a filter.

American tap water is the cleanest in the world and by drinking it, people can save money and save the environment at the same time.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Conference of Mayors passed a resolution to encourage the use of tap water in America's cities.

New York City, which we will hear from today, and cities in New Jersey and across the country played an important role in that resolution.

But knowing that Americans are still going to drink bottled water, we can also act to give American consumers the facts about what they are drinking.

That is why I will soon introduce the Bottled Water Right to Know Act, which will provide consumers information about where their bottled water comes from and the quality of the water that they're drinking.

We should never be in a situation where we do not have access to clean, safe water—and bottled water plays a role in that safety net.

But Americans deserve to know what they’re consuming and the effects of their decisions.

I look forward from hearing from all today's witnesses.

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