Land-o-Lakes lookalikes part of Williamstown water tradition

In a move aimed at supporting local businesses, Dining Services has started buying bottled water from the Sand Springs Water Company for the Snack Bar and other venues on campus. The previous supplier was Carrabassett Spring Water of Gorham, Maine.

The decision to switch bottled water companies originally came from a student (Mark Orlowski ’04, who was unavailable for comment), said Jim Cirillo, associate director of Dining Services. According to Cirillo, Orlowski’s logic was very simple: “Why use water from Maine when we have a local bottler nearby?”

At that point, Cirillo said, the decision was fairly easy. “We went to check it out and found that Sand Springs Water Co. is local and small. They use only natural springs to bottle their water. We found the product was of the highest quality and in keeping with our support for local businesses, we made the change,” he said.

“It was a win-win situation for the students, the area and Williams College.” Calling Sand Springs “local and small” is something of an understatement. The bottler is located, happily enough, on Sand Springs Road in Williamstown, and is but a two-minute drive from the College. The size of the company is such that when the Record called seeking comment for this article, the owner answered the phone.

The size of Sand Springs is in direct contrast to that of Carrabassett, which ships its water from as far away as Europe. Its size allows it to customize labels for individual buyers, which meant that the College could purchase bottles with the word “Williams” and an appropriately local picture on the label.

Although the look may change, the quality of the product will not, Cirillo said. According to information from Sand Springs, its water travels upward via a thermal spring from almost a mile below along an underground fault. The temperature of this water is a consistent 72 degrees, and the water flows continuously at 450 feet-per-minute throughout the year.

This process is similar to the way in which Carrabassett’s water is bottled. According to information on the company’s website, their water also comes from an underground spring located along a fault.

One striking difference between the companies, however, is their ages. Carrabassett is a relative newcomer on the bottled water scene, founded only in 1988. Although Jennifer Morin, owner of Sand Springs, admitted that her company does not know precisely how long it has been bottling water (as it has changed hands several times, including, most recently, to her father 15 years ago), they officially claim, “The quality of our product [is] unchanged since 1889.”

Morin did say that she was confident that Sand Springs has been bottling water for at least 110 years, or since 1893.

One ugly rumor swirling around the College campus is that Sand Springs does little more than sell Williamstown town water back to the College after bottling it. But, Morin said, this could not be farther from the truth. “Town water is a well; ours comes from an underground reservoir, pushed up by heat. This gives it a much purer taste.”

Reponses to the taste, however, have been mixed. While Jonathan Wisbey ’06 said that “It tastes totally fine,” Anna Kretchmer ’06 expressed her belief that although “It tastes fine, I like our tap water a little bit better.” Brad Chu ’06 said, “It tastes really clean.”

Another issue regarding taste has nothing to do with the water itself. While Carrabassett’s custom label capacity allowed for an idyllic picture of the campus on the bottle’s label, Sand Springs’ water instead features a Native American, with two feathers in his hair and an axe at his waist, kneeling over a pool of water and seemingly washing his face. This has struck a number of people as offensive.

Morin said that over a decade ago, when her father was still running Sand Springs, the company tried to address this issue. Morin said that then, the Native American on the label had either one or three feathers in his hair, but that she did not recall which number was correct. Regardless, she said that the move to two feathers was supposed to make the drawing more realistic and less of an ethnic stereotype.

Asked if the portrayal was still something of a racial stereotype, she said simply, “Are Native Americans offensive?”

Cirillo ignored all questions seeking comment on the bottle’s label.

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