Category Archives: nestle waters

While Californians Struggle With the Drought, Nestle Wants To Pump Even More Water From The Stricken State

About the only thing you can’t say about Nestle is that they’re inconsistent.

They’ve always been a corporate predator, and the remarks made to the Guardian (by the CEO of Nestle Waters of North America) suggest they’ll always be a corporate predator:

The boss of Nestlé Waters has said the company wants to increase the amount of water it bottles in California despite a devastating drought across the state that has triggered demonstrations at the corporation’s bottling plant.

Tim Brown, chief executive of Nestlé Waters North America, said the company would “absolutely not” stop bottling in California and would actually like to “increase” the amount of ground source water it uses.

Asked in a local radio interview if Nestlé would consider following Starbucks’ lead and stop bottling water in California during the drought, Brown said: “Absolutely not. In fact, if I could increase it, I would.

Just to be clear; California is in the grip of a devastating, historical drought. Five of the last seven years have been drought years, and California’s residents are being told to cut their water use 30%.

For most, that means saying good-bye to landscaping, using buckets to catch the cold water coming out of the shower, idling farmlands (and those who work on them) — and waiting for the day that tap opens and nothing comes out.

Meanwhile, Nestle would pump more water if it could (and wasting approximately 30% of the water they pump).

It’s irresponsible in the extreme, but even more startling is the rhetoric coming from the company; not only are they seemingly overjoyed at the drought, they’d happily make it worse for California’s residents if only they could.

Nestle Taking Water From National Forest Land Using Permit That Expired 27 Years Ago

Nestle would like you to believe they’re a “good corporate citizen” — one that monitors the health of the aquifers it plunders and gives back to its communities.

Which makes you wonder exactly how it was they mined water from a National Park — under a permit that expired in 1988 — 27 years ago.

(No, that’s not a typo.)

From an investigative article in the Desert Sun:

Nestle Waters North America holds a longstanding right to use this water from the national forest near San Bernardino. But the U.S. Forest Service hasn’t been keeping an eye on whether the taking of water is harming Strawberry Creek and the wildlife that depends on it. In fact, Nestle’s permit to transport water across the national forest expired in 1988. It hasn’t been reviewed since, and the Forest Service hasn’t examined the ecological effects of drawing tens of millions of gallons each year from the springs.

Even with California deep in drought, the federal agency hasn’t assessed the impacts of the bottled water business on springs and streams in two watersheds that sustain sensitive habitats in the national forest. The lack of oversight is symptomatic of a Forest Service limited by tight budgets and focused on other issues, and of a regulatory system in California that allows the bottled water industry to operate with little independent tracking of the potential toll on the environment.

Nestle would like you to believe this is just a paperwork snafu, but in the same article, retired Forest Service Biologist Steve Loe had this to say:

“They’re taking way too much water. That water’s hugely important,” said Steve Loe, a biologist who retired from the Forest Service in 2007. “Without water, you don’t have wildlife, you don’t have vegetation.”

The Desert Sun’s article covers a lot of ground, including the usual Nestlespeak, which suggests everything is peachy with Nestle’s water-taking operations — despite the fact the state is in the grip of a record drought, and Nestle’s water use is increasing.

You simply have to wonder — in a state gripped by drought, why is the Forest Service selling water to a bottling company at all?

The habitat is very delicate, and there’s no way Nestle can argue that removing water from a drought-stricken habitat doesn’t affect fish and wildlife.

And what does the public get for allowing Nestle to plunder this precious resource?

$524. A year.

Does Nestle’s Infiltration Of Maine’s PUC Make An Unconflicted Decision About Its Water Operations Impossible?

Nestle is not a corporation that treads lightly on a place — especially Maine, where its tentacles infiltrate the politics so deeply, it seems it’s not possible for a decision to be made by political people untouched by the company. Witness this story from the Press Herald:

FRYEBURG – When the Maine Public Utilities Commission this week takes up a controversial 25-year contract between the company that owns the Poland Spring brand and the family-controlled utility that supplies its water, it will do so under troubling and unprecedented circumstances: All three PUC commissioners, as well as the state’s public advocate, have ties to the company.

If you can’t tell, this is my shocked look.

“Every commissioner on the PUC has been touched by Nestle,” said Fryeburg resident Scot Montgomery, who manages a restaurant kitchen in the nearby White Mountains and has been involved in local water issues. “Everyone who’s supposed to be looking out for the ratepayers, communities, and resource seems to have this other interest.”

Bingo.

While many at the state and PUC level go to great pains to say they believe the commissioners and public advocate aren’t biased, it’s largely impossible to believe that someone who once had a financial interest in Nestle’s success can now be expected to turn around and render an unconflicted decision.

And let’s be clear — in public proceedings, the mere appearance of a conflict of interest should be avoided. In this case, the conflicts are real (and financial in at least one case), yet at least one commissioner has yet to recuse himself despite having had a hand in preparing the very same situation he’s being asked to vote on.

The Fryeburg Deal: Controversial From The Start

The Press Herald’s Colin Woodward writes one of the most cogent explanations of Nestle’s involvement in Fryeburg’s water system, which isn’t without its shadier elements:

Fryeburg Water Co., which serves Fryeburg and East Conway, N.H., is unusual in that it is a privately held water utility. (About 15 percent of the nation’s water utilities are privately held.) It was founded in 1883, but by the 1990s the majority of the shares were held by members of the Hastings family, whose patriarch, Hugh Hastings, has served as company president since 1969 and as an officer since 1950.

Recognizing that Fryeburg had excellent water — the result of quartz-rich geology and clean, copious runoff from the Presidential Range in the White Mountains — Hastings hoped some could be profitably sold to bottlers. But in the interest of fairness, the PUC prohibits utilities from selling water to any entity at a higher price than it charges its ordinary customers, so Hastings and a business partner, Eric Carlson of the engineering firm Woodard & Curran, came up with a workaround.

In 1997, Hastings and Carlson created a company, Pure Mountain Springs, that bought water from the utility at its ordinary rate and sold it to Nestle Waters at a much higher — but undisclosed — rate. Pure Mountain Springs was headed by Hugh’s son, John, who shared ownership with Carlson. PUC filings show Hugh Hastings maintained power of attorney over his son for the first five years of the company’s operation.

Between 2003 and 2007, previous PUC proceedings revealed, this pass-through entity had revenues of $3 million and paid Fryeburg Water Co. $700,000 in rents and water fees. Hastings wrote in 2004 that the initial capital financing was “over $100,000.”

“Fryeburg’s water had the right geological recipe for Poland Spring,” said Mark Dubois, Nestle Waters’ Maine-based natural resource manager. “But it also had entrepreneurs who saw the spring and invested in their business and started selling that water to us. Here was a willing seller; we were a willing buyer.”

Cliff Hall, a longtime opponent of Nestle’s operations who served on Fryeburg’s Board of Selectmen from 2007 to 2010, takes a dimmer view of the situation. “They set up a nepotistic arrangement which bypassed the (utilities) laws that say if you take an excessive amount of money, you’re supposed to reinvest it in infrastructure,” he said. “It seems to me this was a dummy company set up … to take the money and put it back in the Hastings’ trust.”

Others share these concerns. “A public utility is supposed to do the best they can for the customers, the public and the municipality,” adds Bill Harriman, one of four Fryeburg-area residents who have formally intervened in the current PUC case. “And if you look at what these guys were doing back then, they weren’t looking out for the people of Fryeburg.”

Which brings us to the heart of the issue. Nestle — one of the world’s largest (and most distrusted) corporations — is a lot better at watching out for itself than the small towns it preys on.

Best Nestle Bottled Water Video Ever (So Far This Week)

Sure, StopNestleWaters.org has been dormant, but this is simply too good to pass up. Political satirist Steven Colbert takes aim at Nestle’s latest bottled water, which offers its drinkers “Electrolytenment.”

Whatever that is.

The Colbert Report
Get More: Colbert Report Full Episodes,Video Archive

 
(To see the video in a bigger format, click here).

StopNestleWaters.org Site Is Dormant, But Will Remain Online A Little Longer

As you can tell, the StopNestleWaters.org site is dormant. I simply don’t have time to keep it running.

This site still ranks quite high in search engine results, so those looking to research Nestle’s operations online will read more than Nestle’s somewhat slanted perspective on their water mining operations — and their willingness to bludgeon small towns in rural areas into submission using legal means.

Nestle is not a good corporation — witness their unconscionable actions in the USA and around the world (the baby formula issue is particularly sickening) — so I’ll leave this site up a little longer as a “gift” to them. Enjoy.

TC

Proposed Cascade Locks Water Bottling Plant Drawing Widespread Opposition (Nestle can’t be happy)

The proposed Nestle water bottling plant in Cascade Locks (the Colombia Gorge) is heating up again, and Nestle – perhaps the least-loved water bottling company on the planet – can’t be happy to see this:

The video caption:

On March 29, 2010, a coalition of environmental and social justice organizations, Keep Nestle Out of the Gorge, led by the consumer advocacy group Food & Water Watch, (www.fwwatch.org) launched a coordinated campaign to prevent Nestle Waters North America from opening a water bottling facility in Cascade Locks Oregon.

The coalition gathered at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) offices to speak out against the plant, and to then deliver petitions to the ODFW signed by 4,000 Oregonians who oppose the proposed facility. Keep Nestle Out of the Gorge opposes the deal because a bottled water facility would lead to the commodification of Oregons public water resources, and potentially jeopardize local wildlife, especially native salmon and steel head species.

Save Our Water Sacramento Group Files Administrative Appeal Against Nestle’s Sacramento Plant

Nestle surely thought they’d snuck their Sacramento water bottling plant in through the back door (even a city memo acknowledged the company’s “penchant for secrecy”), but like so many other places, they’re now facing determined opposition.

Sadly for Nestle, the group uncovered a highly questionable permitting process, the appearance of a conflict of interest with a top mayoral advisor, and a development staff seemingly willing to keep the whole project hidden from public view.

In other words, it’s business as usual for Nestle – and at least some of Sacramento’s residents have discovered this sad fact:

Sacramento Press / Group to file Nestlé appeal

In a precursor to any potential legal action, a grassroots organization expects to take its next step in the fight against the Nestlé water-bottling plant by filing an administrative appeal with the city of Sacramento this week.

A Swiss public TV crew is coming to Sacramento Thursday to interview members of the group, Save Our Water Sacramento, which will re-screen the bottled-water documentary “Tapped” at 7 p.m. Thursday at Crest Theatre, 1013 K St.

Afterwards, group leaders will discuss plans to appeal the city’s designation of the Swiss company’s $14-million construction project as ministerial, rather than discretionary. A discretionary designation of a project that could possibly harm the environment triggers a requirement for an environmental assessment under the California Environmental Quality Act. A ministerial designation does not.

The California Environmental Quality Act also requires all administrative remedies be exhausted before a lawsuit can be filed, said Evan Tucker, a Sacramento resident who helps lead Save Our Water Sacramento.

“Those are supposed to exist as an alternative to litigation,” he said. “We can make our case to the city as to why the decision is incorrect.”

The group has been seeking an environmental analysis of the plant since at least September, Tucker said. City Councilmember Kevin McCarty asked the council last month to consider amending the city’s zoning code to immediately require special permits for water-bottling plants, but the proposal was never discussed.

Note the presence of a Swiss film crew; when a French film crew visited McCloud last year, I learned that Nestle’s reputation in Europe is less than sterling.

Surprise.

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Nestle’s Attempts to Woo “Mommy Bloggers” Results in PR Disaster as Company Refuses to Answer Questions

It seems that Nestle’s infant formula division employs tactics eerily similar to those used by their water bottling folks when confronted by inconvenient facts – including those that directly contradict the company’s own spin.

In the bottled water world, Nestle representatives have categorically stated they have never harmed a watershed or aquifer, yet a judge in Michigan clearly disagreed, and the company – faced with yet another losing effort in court – clearly agreed when they capitulated to a lower pumping limit in Mecosta County.

In other words, their representative lied, and it’s a pattern that plays out over and over.

In this case, it reared its head on a diastrous PR program aimed at promoting their products to “mommybloggers” who were wined and dined at a lavish seminar.

The Boycott Nestle Web site (focused on Nestle’s infant formula record [which is abominable]) recounted the whole sordid story:

But critics of the company countered that the event was a public
relations ploy in reaction to an ongoing boycott of Nestle for
marketing baby milk formula as a substitute for breast feeding in
developing countries.
In fact, before the trip, critics reached out to the bloggers invited to California and urged them to not go.
No one canceled.
As
the event got underway, the online conversation quickly turned into an
online battlefield. The company’s Twitter channel was so inundated with
anti-Nestle messages, and nasty accusations aimed at the attendees,
that it was essentially shut down. The company, caught off guard, let
the parents field questions aimed at executives until finally stepping
into the fray.
—Extract ends
I saw
several bloggers say they had been invited to the event and refused to
go. Not the same as canceling, but bloggers on the invitation list were
not all blind to the conflicts of interest in attending, even if
unaware of the boycott.
Nestlé is one of the
four most boycotted companies on the planet, according to an
independent survey, because it is found to be responsible for more
violations of the marketing standards for baby foods than any other
company.
The LA Times article is a little lazy
in characterising the posts to the #nestlefamily hashtag as
‘anti-Nestlé messages’ and ‘accusations aimed at the attendees’. The
vast majority of posts were raising concerns about Nestlé practices and
posting links to evidence (I became aware of the event through traffic
to our sites) and responding to specific requests from some attendees
for questions to put to executives, including the Chief Executive of
Nestlé USA.
Nestlé came online briefly and
offered to take questions. I offered to take part in a tweet debate
directly with Nestlé on behalf of Baby Milk Action, but this was not
taken up. Nestlé stayed on line for an hour or so, promising to come
back the next day to respond to questions, but did not.

The fact is Nestlé runs from fora where there are people with the knowledge to challenge its bland assurances that it markets formula ‘ethically and responsibly’ (a claim that the UK Advertising Standards Authority found to be untrue when Nestlé made it in an anti-boycott advertisement). It not only ran from the questions on Twitter, it now refuses to debate with Baby Milk Action, after we won a series of them from 2001 – 2004. Nestlé refused to attend a European Parliament Public Hearing in 2000, when UNICEF Legal Officer was present to address questions regarding interpretation of the marketing requirements Nestlé should be following (Nestlé claims its own interpretation is correct, while dismissing all others, including UNICEF). And Nestlé refuses to even set out its terms and conditions for participating in an independent expert tribunal into its policies and practices.

Nestlé prefers to direct people to its own website and provide written answers, but not defend them when these are scrutinised, perhaps hoping the majority will accept its assurances at face value. Those who do look closer generally come away more shocked and dismayed at Nestlé’s deceit as it tries to defend practices that contribute to the unnecessary death and suffering of infants.

Nestlé’s reticence to engage with informed critics can be understood given how its response to questions put by the PhD in Parenting blog has fueled concerns rather than dissuaded those looking at this issue. Nestlé’s answers have been posted in full on the blog, and can be found via:
http://www.phdinparenting.com/2009/10/03/follow-up-questions-for-nestle/

As is often the case, Nestlé’s attempt to divert criticism became a PR disaster and gave International Nestlé-Free Week a boost in the US in its third year. The week aims to encourage boycotters to do more and non-boycotters to do something to increase the pressure on Nestlé. Boycotting has forced some changes and greater involvement can only help. See: http://boycottnestle.blogspot.com/2009/10/boycott-successes.html

Nestle, as it has been noted, promised to address questions, but clearly never did – at least when those questions became uncomfortable.

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Producers of “Tapped” Bottled Water Documentary Allege Nestle Trying to Limit Distribution

This statement from a Brookfield News Times interview with the makers of the bottled water documentary “Tapped” largely speaks for itself:

“A lot of major film festivals are sponsored by Nestle,” Soechtig said. “We were wondering why we weren’t getting into Cannes. We thought, is our film not good enough? Then we realized they have a hand in everything.”

Nestle asked the Hot Springs Documentary Film Institute in Louisiana to not show the documentary, the Louisiana State University of Shreveport student newspaper, The Almagest, reported. The screening board denied Nestle’s request.

“I can’t help but think if they tried to pull us out of one town, Nestle has tried to pull us out of others,” Soechtig said.

The corporations have put pressure on commercial distributors, Walrath said, so he and Soechtig are distributing the film independently.

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More on Nestle’s Hiring of Key Advisor to Sacramento Mayor (and Potential Conflicts of Interest)

From s Sacramento News & Review Editorial Piece:

Unfortunately, it doesn’t end there. Heads turned three days later when it was revealed that Smira had also taken a job working as a consultant for Nestlé Waters, the giant water-bottling company now building a bottling plant in south Sacramento.

So, uh … wait a minute.

There’s little doubt that Smira got the Nestlé job at least partially based on her political connections to the mayor. (Interestingly, he’s the one who greenlighted the water plant without a public hearing.) Like lobbyists, public-relations professionals use their connections to help them produce results for whoever they work for. That’s how it works.

But it’s weird to have key staffers (even volunteer ones) consider moving in and out of local public service this way, since a symbiotic relationship can develop between the two roles—and what’s good for the city is often not what’s good for an industry. That’s why there are anti-revolving-doors laws at the state and national level.

As the Smira case illustrates, it’s past time for Sacramento to take the revolving-door syndrome more seriously and strengthen existing laws that keep this tendency in check.

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“The public trust is washing away faster than water can flow out of one of your bottles” (Nestle Waters Accused of Poor Public Process)

Once again, Nestle Waters finds itself accused of poor public process – this time Nestle Waters of Canada is charged with hiding plans for a backup well from citizens. From the Wellington Advertiser:

The company announced its new plans for a well on Gil­mour Road at a public information session on Nov. 3 at Springfield Golf and Country Club on Gordon Street.

Yet several councillors took exception to advertising for the event, as well as letters sent to Gilmour Road residents, neither of which mentioned the plans for a secondary well. They say if that information was included, far more than a dozen people would have at­tended that meeting.

“The public trust is washing away faster than water can flow out of one of your bottles,” councillor Matthew Bul­mer said sternly. He agreed with fellow councillor Susan Fielding the ads were very “am­biguous” and said the letters to residents were even less helpful.

Letters were sent to Gil­mour Road residents the day before the meeting and neither the township nor the members of the newly established well protection committee – Bulmer, resident Dianne Paron, and Alan Dale of the Grand River Conservation Authority – were among the recipients.

“I’m concerned you’re trying to wiggle out of a very basic responsibility,” Bulmer said.

That Nestle stands accused of trying to sneak one past residents isn’t exactly news; they’ve been accused of the same thing in McCloud, Fryeburg, Sacramento, Mecosta County (MI), Florida, Wells/Kennebunk (ME), parts of Canada, and a whole host of other places.

While Nestle’s “good corporate citizen” routine is a regular part of its act, a closer look at the company’s actions belies the claim.

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