Earlier this year, residents of Concord, Mass., passed a law that would have made it illegal to sell bottled water in their town.
The effort was spurred by Jean Hill, an 82-year-old activist who was subsequently featured in The New York Times — critics called her “a retiree with too much time on her hands.”
But it turns out residents didn't have the authority to make that decision, so now bottled water sales are legal again in Concord.
After the Town Meeting passed the article — which would have banned the sale of plastic water bottles beginning Jan. 1 — it went to the state attorney general. The state AG declined to approve the article, saying it was not enforceable — there was no civil or criminal consequence of violating the rule.
That left Concord's town selectmen in a pickle. Should they pass a law that they could enforce? Or just let the matter drop?
In the end, they decided to develop a strategy to voluntarily use fewer plastic bottles.
Meanwhile, Virginia took a similar step last week, when Gov. Bob McDonnell reversed a directive that banned state agencies and institutions from buying single-serve plastic water bottles.
While bottled vs. tap water issues are more complex than just an attack on plastics, the focus of critics' attention often is on the container, not the water.
I don't have a problem with citizens making a choice not to buy bottled water — I'm right there with them, in fact. But singling out bottled water for bans, while allowing retail sales of less healthy alternatives, doesn't make sense.
The latest actions in Concord and in Virginia appear to be steps in the direction of common sense.