Magens Bay boss makes case for water bottle filling station

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Dennis Nixon, top right, addresses Magens Bay Authority board members at their Friday meeting, held on Zoom. Nixon proposes that a water bottle filling station be installed at the beach park. (Larger screenshot)

Dennis Nixon loves walking from his Mahogany Run apartment to Magens Bay Beach, where he swims along the buoys every week.

Nixon always carries a refillable water bottle on the long hike, but on a recent day it dried up and needed a refill. It was then that he realized that the park had no more drinking fountain – it was swept away by Hurricane Irma and was never replaced.

“I didn’t notice until I moved here permanently in January that there is no more room for a member of the public to get fresh water,” Nixon told the board. administration of the Magens Bay Authority at their monthly meeting on Friday. A marine lawyer and former associate dean of the Graduate School of Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island, he recently retired as director of the state’s Sea Grant program.

Fortunately, on the day he ran out, his pockets empty of money, the authority’s chief executive, Hubert Brumant, gave him water to replenish his refillable bottle in order to go up the hill, Nixon said. .

“This struck me, since this is a service that was provided previously and water bottle filling stations are now very common in airports and schools, mainly in all public structures, and that the Magens Bay Authority is a quasi-public body, that seemed to me like a possible gap that could be filled, ”Nixon said.

“I am a very happy customer of the beach, I think it is very well managed, but I see it as an oversight at the moment,” Nixon told the board.

Not only would a water filling station reduce plastic waste, it could also be a marketing opportunity for the authority, which could sell branded refillable water bottles that would make great souvenirs for tourists, and even organize an art competition for upcoming students. with a design, said Nixon, who offered to help fund such an effort.

It would also send the message that the Magens Bay Authority practices good environmental stewardship, Nixon said.

“I would be happy to help you write the grant proposal if you would like my help. I used to be a dean, I can write that kind of stuff very well. We could get the money to finance the water bottle filling station “through the Ministry of Planning and Natural Resources” Clean ribs program, Nixon said. They cost around $ 2,000 to $ 2,500 to install, he said.

The front porch of the Magens Bay Beach Food Concession, shown in this 2013 photo as it was before Hurricane Irma, when a public fountain attached to the building was blown away. (Source file photo by Gabriel Padilha)

However, it will require the agreement of the Dimopoulos family, which operates the food concession where the service station should be located, since the building has a cistern and electricity. It was also the site of the old water fountain.

Nixon said he spoke with Chris Dimopoulos about his proposal, and although he said he would need to speak with his family, “he didn’t dismiss the idea out of hand.” Phil Dimopoulos attended the Zoom meeting on Friday but did not speak.

Nixon said he is not suggesting that plastic water bottles be disposed of.

“As Mr. Dimopoulos pointed out to me, cruise ship passengers often say, ‘We don’t want anything else to take with us, a bottle of Magens Bay brand water, I just want this bottle of water. ‘Aquafina at $ 3.’ Fine. There will always be customers like this, who won’t believe that filtered water can be clean enough to drink. It’s the only kind I drink. I haven’t bought a water bottle in years, ”he said.

The gas stations have a built-in filtering system, designed to treat tank water, and they are built to withstand the rigors of elementary schools and airports, Nixon said.

“I have now visited public beaches on six continents as part of my career, having just retired, and this is truly one of the best in the world. I love to call it my local beach, ”Nixon said. “I just think it could be improved if members of the public – especially those I’ve spoken to who use the beach for exercise, not necessarily pain relievers all afternoon – those in between. we who would like to fill a bottle of water would appreciate this opportunity, and I humbly ask for your cooperation, ”he said.

“I actually think it’s a great idea. I walk the beach myself several times a week and one of the things we end up doing is picking up the trash along the way, and one of the things we pick up the most is bottles of water. ‘water,’ said board treasurer Cécile deJongh. She recently attended a tennis tournament in California, where plastic water bottles were banned and customers used gas stations, she said.

“I like the idea myself,” said Dayle Barry, a board member, whose only reservation was the security of the gas station, since Magens Bay has a policy of opening doors after hours. time. “But I’m sure we can do something that would make it possible,” he said.

“I’m sure there are systems that have been designed for this, as they are available in public parks that I have seen around the world on my travels,” Nixon said. “It wouldn’t be the first time someone had tried something like this, but I wasn’t going to go down that deep hole until I heard some degree of interest from the board of administration. I am happy to further investigate, ”he said.

“One of the best things about Magens Bay is watching the pelicans come in and feed in the afternoon, and we don’t want them feeding on plastic,” Nixon said. “We don’t want the sea turtles I see when I swim along the buoys to ingest this plastic. I see this as a very important environmental step to take. “

Having received some support for his proposal, Nixon will continue his research and report to the board with more detailed information.

“Go ahead and keep us posted, and we’ll see where it takes us,” said board chair Katina Coulianos.

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