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Nestle Waters, Sacramento City Staff Not Answering Questions About Nestle Bottling Plant

Bad public process follows Nestle around like a shadow, and Sacramento seems to not be an exception.

In what a cynic would suggest is an all-out attempt to avoid the kind of citizen opposition that has dogged every Nestle bottling plant or extraction project as of late, they trying to fast-track their Sacramento water bottling plant, and getting city staff to help them.

This eye-opening piece from the IndyBay site raises a whole raft of questions about Nestle’s intentions, source of its spring water, and the utter lack of controls imposed on the bottler – and asks some questions that Sacramento’s city staff don’t seem to want to answer:

Since this initial publicity, Nestle and the city of Sacramento have worked hard to quietly fast-track this project so Nestle can open its south Sacramento bottling plant in the next few months.

City staff consider this project “non-discretionary,” which means if all goes as planned, there will be no public comment, no city council vote and no environmental impact report.

Down the Drain

Nestle claims that their Sacramento plant will be a “micro-bottling plant,” bottling only 50 million gallons of water. According to Nestle, approximately 30 million gallons will come from Sacramento’s municipal water system and 20 million will be trucked to the plant from nearby “private springs.”

City staff have refused to answer questions about the springs and Nestle has provided no information about their location, other than telling the Sacramento News and Review that they are in the Sierra Nevada foothills.

A search of water extraction permits issued by the State of California over the last two years reveals nothing. The only clues come from other communities struggling to keep from being robbed of their water.

In July of 2008 Attorney General Jerry Brown delivered a near fatal blow to Nestle’s plans for their massive bottling plant in the small mountain town of McCloud California. That same month, developer Lawrence Adams filed an application to increase the amount of water he could extract from a parcel of land he owns in Shingletown, California.

Adams was granted permission to increase the amount he pumps from 26,000 gallons a day to 288,000 gallons a day. Despite requests from Shingletown residents, Adams has refused to disclose who he plans to sell the water to.

This foothill town, looted for water in the same month that Nestle’s McCloud deal crumbled, is the only site we can locate that could possibly be Nestle’s mysterious private spring.

If Nestle is Lawrence Adams’ secret customer, then quite possibly the fate of this town’s water depends on whether or not the Sacramento bottling plant is built.

The tactics Nestle is using in Sacramento are a noticeable departure from the methods they have used in other towns from whom they hoped to profit. Unlike many of their past endeavors – where Nestle negotiates backroom deals for access to inordinate amounts of water – in Sacramento there is no agreement to provide a specified amount of water. In fact, there is no agreement at all.

If everything goes as planned, Nestle just hooks up to our water system and pumps as much as they want. The only limit on the amount of water Nestle pumps, as I was told by one staff member at the Economic Development Department, is the size of their pipes.

The three bottling plants already in Sacramento are among the city’s top 20 water users. All three have increased the amount of water they pump in the last two years, one as much as 54 percent. Why would Nestle be any different?

Nestle has fought for the last 6 years, without success, to establish a bottling plant in the town of McCloud, California. While rumors abound that Nestle is abandoning their plans for McCloud, the company has indicated that it all depends on what happens in Sacramento.

Before bowing to pressure from the public, courts and the Attorney General, Nestle planned to pump 520 million gallons of spring water a year and unlimited groundwater from the aquifers of McCloud. If Nestle pumps 520 million gallons of water in Sacramento that would make them the city’s number one water user pumping over 200 million gallons more than the runner-up, the Sacramento Power Authority.

And why not? Once they are connected no one can control how much water they pump. They have a ten year lease with an option to extend on their warehouse space at 8670 Younger Creek Drive.

The plant will supposedly be 214,000 square feet, but it is within a 548,000 square foot warehouse see diagram below. This is considerably bigger than the size of their proposed McCloud plant and presumably would make it easier for them to expand if they increased production.

You can read the entire article here: Nestle on the Prowl – Poised to Steal Sacramento’s Water : Indybay.

That Nestle is unwilling to disclose any substantive information about the sources of its Sacramento water doesn’t surprise; the Swiss multinational has consistently only revealed (or studied, or monitored, or even considered) those things it’s been forced to consider (or study, or monitor…).

Given the number of PR disasters Nestle Waters has found itself embroiled in as of late, their desire to fast track this plant – and post some kind of victory – is clear.

5 comments

1 Shannon { 09.13.09 at 4:31 pm }

I live in Sacramento, and I want to work to keep Nestle out. Please contact me with ideas or suggestions.

2 TC { 09.14.09 at 4:42 pm }

Shannon, there are several groups better equipped than me to help you. I’ll forward your email to them.

3 np { 09.24.09 at 10:37 am }

See this site for updates: SaveOurWaterSacramento.org .

4 virginia shanahan { 11.06.09 at 11:25 am }

I say…….DON’T WE NEED JOBS?????? work with Nestles and do whatever it takes to open that plant! They must not need a job.(stupid people)

5 Shannon { 11.06.09 at 11:47 am }

This new facility will offer between twelve and forty jobs, depending on whether you believe the press release or the website. Hardly enough to justify giving away water during a drought. What about California’s agricultural economy? If there is money to be made from selling bottled water, it should be sold by the city directly so at least the profits will actually benefit the citizens, not some private corporation.