Police investigate bottled water claim

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BENNINGTON — A social media post that purportedly showed a case of bottled water purchased at a local big-box store with multiple punctures in it launched a police investigation this month.

"Currently, there does not appear to be any danger to the public," Bennington police said in a statement issued Thursday.

A case of bottled water — which a Bennington resident told police was purchased from Walmart last month with multiple pinholes through the wrapper and bottle caps — is shown in a Facebook post that has been shared thousands of times. According to Bennington police, the investigation began shortly after the March 3 Facebook post was made and is still active.

Police said they took possession of the water bottles from the person who purchased them, and that person is cooperating with the investigation.

"Two persons did consume some of the water from the punctured bottles and did not get sick or have any ill effects from the water," police said.

No other cases of water have been found with punctures in them, according to police, who say staff of the Walmart on Northside Drive "have been extremely cooperative and helpful with the investigation." Staff told police that "they have been diligent in their effort to ensure the water at the store is safe to sell to customers."

By Friday evening, the woman's original Facebook post — which originally included one video and several pictures — had been shared 54,206 times and garnered 3,700 comments. A video that shows her squeezing multiple water bottles spray water through pinholes in the bottle caps had been viewed 5.7 million times.

The incident in Bennington was referenced in a recent article on the fact-checking website Snopes.com. The article's main focus is on another post shared via Facebook and Twitter, which stated several people had died after drinking bottled water purposely injected with poison. The deaths purportedly occurred in "the Richmond area," with no state specified, and was announced by a local sheriff.

Researchers with the website didn't find press reports of water bottle tampering and/or related deaths. The site lists the claim as false.

The Snopes article writer suggests the rumor "may have started as a riff" on the Facebook post originating in Bennington.

The author of the post made about water bottles purportedly purchased in Bennington has repeatedly insisted on social media the video shows the condition in which the product was found.

"Possible explanations for the punctured caps include a manufacturing mistake of some kind, tampering prior to the bottles being packaged, or tampering by the purchaser after the package was opened," the Snopes article states.

Bennington police say the incident is still under investigation.

"As always, consumers should be cautious, and observant, of any purchases made at any store of products that can be tampered with," police said.

Anyone with information regarding the incident is asked to contact Bennington police at 802-442-1030.

Ed Damon can be reached at edamon@benningtonbanner.com, at @edamon_banner on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 111.


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