An Open Letter About Denmark’s Nestle/Poland Spring Hearing (And Some Good Ideas)

This was forwarded to StopNestleWaters.org from a Fryebrug resident (city next to Denmark), and touches on a recurring theme: how do small towns write ordinances capable of protecting themselves from extractive industries like Nestle/Poland Spring.

It asks tough questions that every town should answer when they’re being courted by Nestle/Poland Spring.

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This is an open letter to all the citizens of Denmark who will be attending the “Open Town Meeting” on November 22nd at town hall.

The purpose of this meeting is for Poland Spring/Nestle to gain the approval for the renewal of their “Permit Application for Water Extraction” and to amend this permit to include an additional borehole and well house. There are many concerns and questions about this permit renewal and our current water ordinance. Since our ordinance is a work in progress, we feel that it would be a great opportunity to share with you some thoughts and ideas for improving our ordinance.

  • We need to move the authority for this ordinance and permitting process back to, our voter elected, Planning Board where it rightfully belongs. Every other town water ordinance we reviewed squarely gives responsibility to their Planning Board. We are the only town where the selectmen have taken control of the ordinance and water permitting application process.
  • We need to add language to address and protect the environmental issues and ecological systems. Our current ordinance addresses neither of these.
  • We need to have a bond or other security posted prior to approval of a water extraction permit, so residents can know the amount of coverage.
  • Alert and Action levels need to be clearly defined and set prior to approval of any permit. Exactly what water levels indicate an adverse effect?
  • If we hit a pre-determined Action level and the applicant refuses to stop extracting water, what is our recourse? Should we be assessing a monetary penalty in our ordinance?
  • Our code enforcement officer should not need to make an appointment to visit the extraction site.
  • We need to know where the load out facility will be located prior to the renewal of the permit. Will it be in Denmark?
  • We need to have effective, strong language in our ordinance that would govern hours of operation, noise levels, and glare from lights, increased traffic, and similar potential for nuisance. Our ordinance currently says that these nuisances are unlikely, but since we don’t know where the load out facility will be located, these may be very likely.

Our town officials have developed a great ordinance. However, in three years time, things have changed. Many towns have used Denmark’s water ordinance as a starting point. They have added stronger language to their water ordinances. Since our ordinance is a work in progress, we need to make some additional changes to our ordinance as well.

Please come to the hearing Nov,22 at 9:00 am held at the Denmark Town office.

— Natural Resource Defenders