SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. (KTXL) — The city of South Lake Tahoe is one big step closer to banning single-use plastic water bottles.
The city council unanimously approved the reading of an ordinance that would do just that.
“Mark Twain said, ‘Whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting over.’ so I guess we have a fight on our hands here,” Duane Wallace, South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce CEO, said.
Wallace opposes the proposed ban on single-use plastic water bottles, less than a gallon in size, at city facilities and events. Violators would face fines.
If approved by the city council, the ban would go into effect in April of next year, on Earth Day.
The ordinance would further prohibit city merchants from selling those water bottles a year later.
“And it would apply to non-sparkling unflavored drinking water,” Heather Stroud, South Lake Tahoe’s city attorney, said.
“The city manager can waive those prohibitions if necessary to protect public health and safety, including if there’s a lack of potable water available due to a natural disaster,” Stroud said.
City staff members who spoke during the meeting find the idea refreshing.
“I would just remind everybody that our tap water is extraordinary while also recognizing that all tap water is held to at least the same or even higher standards than bottled water,” Sara Letton, South Lake Tahoe Sustainability Coordinator, said. “It contributes far fewer greenhouse gasses over its life cycle. And it is nearly free.”
Reaction from community members was mixed.
“It’s going to take money out of local merchants’ pockets and give it to somebody else’s pocket because you can’t change the habits with a small little place,” Wallace said. “Like we have of hundreds of thousands of people who visit here from nations and other states.”
Some residents are concerned the ordinance could lead to job losses.
“Plastic bottles are recyclable. And for people that do not recycle on their own, South Tahoe Refuse employs workers on the conveyor line to separate recyclables including plastic bottles,” Sherry Eddy, South Lake Tahoe resident, said.
“We really do need to stop the litter at its source,” Marilee Movius, community engagement manager, said.
Movius from “Keep Tahoe Blue” was among those who spoke out in favor of the ordinance, citing the number of plastics that the organization has collected.
“29,513 bottle caps made of plastic that have been picked up from our cleanup efforts. And 21,139 plastic bottles that have also been picked up out of the environment from our cleanup efforts,” Movius said.
The city plans to install water filling stations to make up for the lack of bottles, and council members talked about the need for a design that doesn’t freeze over in the winter.
“We want to encourage people to drink tap water, and that is truly what we’re doing. And so it is going to take a lot of education, and it is going to take a lot of outreach,” Creegan said.
After a lengthy discussion and public debate, the council voted to approve the reading of the ordinance. That is a step toward final approval of the ordinance itself at a future meeting.
“Being a part of global solutions is great, and I’m proud to be,” Cody Bass, South Lake Tahoe city council member, said.
That final vote is expected next month. The City of South Lake Tahoe plans to encourage local merchants to sell reusable aluminum or metal water bottles.