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    Brookline votes to require restaurants to offer tap water

    Town Meeting also bans municipality from buying bottled water except for employees working outside

    Brookline Town Meeting passed two measures Thursday night designed to encourage residents to abandon their plastic bottles of store-bought water in favor of more environmentally friendly cups or water bottles filled from the tap.

    The first measure, called the “drinking water access bylaw” requires restaurants in town to provide customers with tap water. The bylaw stipulates that customers may be charged for the water.

    The second bylaw prohibits the town from spending tax dollars to purchase bottled water, except for employees who work outside or in other places where potable tap water is not readily available.

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    “We have a track record of environmental leadership in Brookline, this is a small step in the right direction,” said Town Meeting member Carol Oldham.

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    Proponents of the two bylaws argued that plastic water bottles contain dangerous chemicals, are a hazard to the environment and wildlife, and are an expensive alternative to something more economical and easily available.

    “Tax payer money should not be used to pay for bottled water when tap water is available,” said Jane Gilman, a co-sponsor along with Clint Richmond of the articles.

    But several Town Meeting members urged that more study of the issue is needed before restrictions on bottled water are enacted, questioning whether the bylaw would actually reduce the number of plastic bottles, and whether it would push people toward unhealthy alternatives such as sugar or diet soda as an alternative if bottled water is not available.

    Town Meeting member Janice Kahn argued in favor of waiting, citing the town of Concord, which instituted a plastic water bottle ban last year.

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    She said town officials there said figures about whether the ban is working to reduce the number of plastic water bottles are difficult to interpret, adding that market shelves there are still filled with plastic bottles.

    “The issue is not really about water, it’s about plastic, and that is not being addressed,” Kahn said.

    Ellen Ishkanian can be reached at eishkanian@gmail.com.