North Hempstead adds 60 water fountains
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New water-bottle filling stations are headed to North Hempstead, tapping into a global bid to encourage more water drinking and curb the purchase of plastic bottles.
The 60 new stations, or fountains, are filtered and have two spouts: One that shoots water straight down, directly into the bottle, and another arched stream for bottle-less drinkers.
The stations are courtesy of the recently formed Smart Tap, a Greenwich, Conn., company that partners with municipalities and corporations to supply them. Thirty are set for streets, town parks, beaches and gardens, most replacing old fountains that town officials say are sparsely used; then 30 smaller ones will be placed inside 11 school districts within the town.
The stations echo efforts worldwide, as environmentalists say they will lead to less plastic waste. An estimated 154 billion bottles of water are consumed globally each year, according to the Worldwatch Institute.
The Environmental Protection Agency has urged municipalities with a "Bring Back the Water Fountain" campaign, touting fountains as an alternative to sugary drinks.
Frances Reid, town chief sustainability officer, hopes the stations will catch on.
"All of this is in vogue," Reid said.
Bill Apfelbaum, chief executive and founder of Smart Tap, agrees.
"Walking around with a single-serve bottle of water, is going to be in the next few years like wearing fur."
The company, seeing opportunity, has sought out a number of municipalities this year. In Brooklyn, six are scattered throughout the 585-acre Prospect Park. Several are in downtown Stamford, Conn.
Park officials describe the oft-discarded bottles as a perennial scourge, and other efforts persist.
The Detroit Zoo this year added seven filtered-water stations, saying it hoped to "wean its visitors off the bottle," despite bottled water being a top seller at zoo concession stands and generating $240,000 annually. The National Park Service has added them too in recent years, in such places as Grand Canyon National Park, which bans sale of plastic water bottles.
The town is to bear only the cost for installation, time and labor of the town fountains, Reid said. Smart Tap is responsible for funding repair and maintenance work.
On summer's last weekday, Roya Baron, 45, of Great Neck, stopped to drink from the first installation, at North Hempstead Beach Park in Port Washington.
"Parents are encouraging kids to drink more water," she said. She carries a tall, label-less plastic bottle "with me all the time."
Reid said as the town has expanded recycling efforts -- there are courses for residents to learn how to collect rain in barrels -- it was eyeing ways to reduce plastic waste but knew such a project would be costly.
A makeover was key.
People perceived the current stone fountains as unhygienic, Reid said. "This is much more user-friendly."