AUBURN – Even though your drinking water is in a clear bottle, you may find the facts about its origin or purity are a bit cloudy.
That’s what Bryan Pullen, CEO of Summit Spring Water Inc. in Harrison, told members of the Androscoggin County Chamber of Commerce at Lost Valley Thursday morning.
“You, the consumer, have got to pay attention,” he said. “Real spring water is nature’s gift,” Pullen said. “The reason for the growth of the bottled water industry is because spring water is better for you than tap water – plain and simple,” he said.
“However, this is the dilemma. All bottled water is not the same,” Pullen said, adding that “many bottled waters are just tap water.”
He went on to explain how the U.S. Food and Drug Administration “loosened the definition of spring water” in 1999.
“Consequently, there has been a proliferation of marketing claims and bogus stories about the locations and/or the qualities of the sources of water,” Pullen said.
Speaking of labeling laws, he said, “Maine is pretty strict. The federal government is not.”
Pullen described changes to labeling laws that now allow water from boreholes and pumped water to be called spring water. He also discussed several negative aspects of chlorine and fluoride as additives to water supplies.
Pullen called chlorine “a double-edged sword,” and he noted that “safer alternatives are available.”
He urged the audience to read labels carefully, noting the source and other factors. “Do your homework,” he advised.
Pullen emphasized that the available drinkable water on Earth is diminishing. “Our survival hinges on a very small amount of fresh water,” Pullen said. About 97 percent of the planet’s water is salt water, and 2 percent of the remaining 3 percent is locked in the polar ice caps, he said, and he pointed out that a large part of the final 1 percent is contaminated in some way.
“Bottled water consumption in this country has grown at double-digit rates for more than 15 years,” Pullen told the chamber’s monthly breakfast meeting audience. The rate slowed somewhat last year, he said.
Pullen’s remarks underscored evidence that water quality and supply is poor throughout the world, and the basically good quality and supply in the United States is increasingly threatened.
“Water as pure as possible is what the body needs every day,” Pullen said. “Is tap water safe? In the United States in the short-term – yes,” he said. “In the long-term, I’m not too sure.”
Pullen showed a brief video about the operation of Summit Spring Water Co. on 750-foot-high Summit Hill in Harrison. He said the spring water still bubbles up naturally as it has throughout recorded history. In the 1880s, it was sold as a healing tonic and in 1888 a 55-room hotel was built near the spring. For decades tourists from New York and Boston traveled to the spring to “take the waters.”
The water overflows naturally at a rate of 38 gallons a minute and a year-round temperature of 46 degrees. Part of the flow is bottled in the nearby spring house, which was built in 1936, and the surplus flow returns to the ground.