Category Archives: nestle waters

Did Poland Spring’s Heavy-Handed Media Campaign Doom it in Wells?

This opinion piece from Maine’s Seacoast Online suggests Nestle/Poland Spring’s well-oiled PR machine may have worked against the company, with voters becoming increasingly disenchanted with what appeared to be a heavy-handed campaign:

While many of us were holding onto our spare change and waiting for signs of economic recovery, Poland Spring launched an all-out, full-color, full-volume attack on the small community of Wells and the surrounding towns. From the ads to the mailers to the calls placed by telemarketers, there was little respite even for those who tend to ignore local issues.

So, on Tuesday, the voters rose and carried themselves to the Wells High School, and there they delivered what many hope will be a crushing blow to the hopes of multinational giant Nestlé.

Those of us steeped in the tradition of newsroom skepticism aren’t so sure Nestlé or Poland Spring will be deterred so easily, which is why we just last week argued in favor of the Wells water extraction ordinance — it seems to us that even basic protections are better than none.

But whatever comes next, maybe Poland Spring will learn a few lessons, as Bloomberg has, about the danger of voter fatigue and the power of grass-roots organizing.

While the Nestlé folks were rolling out their glossy campaign, local organizers from across the region spent countless hours wearing through shoe leather, knocking on doors and reaching out to voters.

It worked, and we’ll keep our fingers crossed that the effort will pay off in the long run.

Nestle desperately didn’t want this vote to go against them, and their big-dollar efforts reflected that desire. Still, in the face of strong grassroots organizing – the kind they faced in McCloud and Mecosta County – their glossy campaigns simply weren’t enough.

Press Release: Citizens Reject Wells Water Extraction Ordinance (“No” to Nestle)

Press Release
November 3,2009

Contact: Jamilla El-Shafei,organizer for Save Our Water and The Branch Brook Aquifer Coalition (email: jamillaelshafei@gmail.com)
Contact: Jean Foss, spokesperson for Protect Wells Water and member of The Branch Brook Aquifer Coalition (email: jeanfoss@earthlink.net)

Wells voters rejected a water extraction ordinance 3,194 no to 1,420 yes.

Jamilla El-Shafei, organizer for Save Our Water, a water justice organization which includes residents from Wells, Kennebunk, Kennebunkport,Ogunquit and Biddeford, who organized the opposition along with Protect Wells Water said “In spite of the Nestle Waters Corporation spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to influence the vote in Wells, the citizens are standing up to protect their water from corporate exploitation and sending a message: No to large scale water extraction and No to Nestle!

We are hoping that the State of Maine takes notice and that our legislators put water in the public trust.”

“Presently, surface water and ground water are regulated under two different bodies of law, yet they are part of the same hydrological cycle. We need to have one law which protects our water, the state’s most precious resource and place it in the public trust.”

Jean Foss, spokesperson for Protect Wells Water said “Rejection of the Wells ordinance, question #1, makes clear that the people of Wells do not want large scale water extraction. By this decision Wells groundwater remains fully available to the homes and local businesses that depend on it. Wells voters can credit themselves for turning out in numbers to vote on a critical and confusing issue.

Future assaults on our aquifers are likely as water becomes scarce. Citizens are concerned and increasingly well informed. They rightfully demand that our laws, both state and local adequately defend people’s access to clean and abundant water.”

As Vote on Wells Water Ordinance Nears, Nestle/Poland Spring Accused of Dirty Tricks

It’s almost as if Nestle/Poland Spring can’t quite walk the straight and narrow – even when all eyes are on them.

As a vote on Wells’ controversial water extraction ordinance nears, activists are crying foul – and alleging dirty tricks on the part of Nestle/Poland Spring.

First, Nestle printed and distributed fliers which listed incorrect poll opening and closing times.

Nestle claims an it was an innocent error, but opponents aren’t convinced – especially given Nestle’s willingness to meddle in local politics in other places (Nestle maintained they weren’t going to interfere in McCloud’s 2006 elections, but wrote a check to their candidates the day before the election).

Now, a leader in the fight to vote down the proposed Wells commercial water extraction ordinance alleges further misdeeds by Nestle/Poland Spring (in a Seacoast Online article):

I’m mad as hell,” said Jamilla El-Shafei, a water-rights activist from Kennebunk, who alleged that phone calls were made Oct. 20 to Wells residents telling them that if they wanted to reject the ordinance they should vote “yes,” when in fact a “no” vote would oppose it.

El-Shafei, who has spoken out against Poland Spring and its parent company, Nestlé Waters North America, said the alleged phone calls were outright wrong.

Some of the more than dozen people who spoke about the ordinance, reiterated that “yes” means in favor of the ordinance and “no” means against it. About 60 people attended the meeting.

In a subsequent email, she offered more detail:

Last week when some of us were canvassing the telemarketers (perhaps from Nestle) had just called folks before we came to the door. When asked about voting on the water extraction issue, when the residents said “I don’t want Poland Springs taking my water,” the telemarketers said “VOTE YES if you don’t want water extraction.”

People were really upset to learn that they were snookered, once we explained it to them. One man said “I am so mad I am going to call the papers.”

Later, she alleged intimidation on the part of a Poland Spring attorney:

On Thursday night, Save Our Water had a speaker from Hollis speak before the Terri Swier talk about them spraying chemicals from their waste water on fields in Hollis as well as other things and the next day Nestle’s Attorney Chip Ahrens from Pierce Atwood called the woman and intimidated her.

There’s no way to confirm what was said during the phone call or what Mr. Ahrens’s intentions were, but it’s clear that – as the pivotal Wells ordinance vote approaches – Nestle’s clearly concerned.

Should the ordinance – based on a Denmark ordinance that many allege was written by a Nestle-friendly consultant – go down before a vote of the citizens, a moratorium to prevent extraction would be extended.

More importantly, small towns that want nothing to do with Nestle/Poland Spring will realize they have options – and Nestle/Poland Spring can’t sue them all.

Christian Science Monitor Explores Nestle Issue in Salida (CO), Nestle Can’t Be Happy

While Nestle Waters of North America’s water extraction operation in Chaffee County, CO may have received a go-ahead from the county (despite the fact Nestle’s application didn’t meet the criteria), citizens are not happy, and the story drew the attention of the Christian Science Monitor, which included this passage:

For the better part of this year, Salida – population 5,400 – has also been the setting for a 21st century kind of battle – over water.

Here and there in windows and entryways are signs reading “Stop Nestlé” or “Nest-Leave.” They refer to a proposed project by Nestlé Waters North America, which hopes to pump water from a spring a half-hour north of here and sell it under its Arrowhead label.

Citing myriad concerns, a group of residents has objected vigorously. They worry about impacts to the watershed and to nearby wetlands. They say that climate change, predicted to further dry Colorado and the Southwest, warrants a precautionary approach to all things water-related. And, pointing to fights other communities have had with the company, they say they simply don’t want Nestlé as a neighbor.

None of the above is news to StopNestleWaters readers, and the response from Nestle’s operative is also predictable; opponents are “emotional” and Nestle’s only a target because they’re big.

This, of course, ignores the numerous conflicts Nestle’s incited in other rural areas, and it’s a shame the article itself doesn’t completely explore the roots of citizen dissatisfaction with Nestle.

Still, attention from national and international media (like the famous BusinessWeek article on Nestle’s battle in McCloud) are the very thing that Nestle would like to avoid. After all, the company is one the most-boycotted corporations on the planet, and they’re still facing an international baby formula boycott for their predatory tactics aimed at third world mothers.

National media attention they don’t need – even that which uncritically accepts the statements of their spokespeople.

Nestle Greases Sacramento Skids: Hires Top Mayoral Advisor

In yet another example of Nestle’s penchant for moving quietly into town and recruiting advocates (long before the public’s aware of anything), the company has apparently – in a fairly naked display of influence buying – hired one of the Sacramento Mayor’s top advisors (found in the Chico News & Review):

Michelle Smira, one of Kevin Johnson’s top volunteer advisors, is leaving city hall, and going to work as a consultant for Nestle.

Smira gave her resignation last week, on October 22, and you can read her resignation letter below.

She told SN&R that she’s giving up her role as an official volunteer advisor to the mayor in order to work on Johnson’s strong mayor initiative. She also said that she was not leaving her City Hall role because of any legal conflict of interest, but because she would not otherwise have time to run her public relations business, MMS Strategies.

It just happens that MMS was hired, over the weekend, by Nestle Waters, to help win hearts and minds, and building permits, for its controversial water bottling plant in South Sacramento.

With the Sacramento mayor being one of the biggest boosters of the Nestle project – apparently willing to trade unlimited amounts of water for a handful of jobs (many of which are going to people outside of Sacramento) – it’s clear that Nestle knows whose skids need to be greased (they certainly did in McCloud & they’re certainly doing it right now in Fryeburg).

via Sacramento News & Review > Blogs > SNOG > Revolving door: One of the Mayor’s top advisors goes to work for Nestle > October 28, 2009.

Bad Public Process Follows Nestle Water Bottling Operation to Sacramento

While their claim to “good corporate citizenship” seemingly doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, it is true that Nestle Waters of North America certainly knows how to slink into town and cut a deal before the public is aware of anything.

It’s happened in almost every small town situation (and we’ve certainly mentioned it before) – and it’s happened again in the case of their Sacramento plant.

Not only was the economic development director apparently aiding the company in keeping their project secret, Nestle also took advantage of a (possibly illegal program) that allowed them to begin work on their plant before the necessary permits were issued (via the Sacramento Bee):

For three years, the city of Sacramento has allowed developers to start work on their projects before receiving formal permits.The practice, covered by the controversial Facilities Permit Program FPP, is now part of an expanding city investigation into the operations of its Community Development Department.

That investigation was launched after city officials said the son of a city councilman improperly allowed new homes to be built in the Natomas flood zone – months before permits for those homes were issued.

Questions about the permit program surfaced this week after city officials determined that construction of a new Nestlé water bottling plant was permitted to start with a verbal approval and authorization letter – and not a formal building permit.

You can read the whole post at Sacramento let developers get jump-start before formal permits – Sacramento News – Local and Breaking Sacramento News | Sacramento Bee.

Nestle “Penchant For Secrecy” Questioned By Sacramento Residents

Nestle’s somewhat sorry reputation is dogging it wherever it goes – resulting in what a Sacramento economic development official called “a penchant for secrecy.”

This quote from a story in the Sacramento Bee nicely sums up a key part of the Nestle playbook:

In one e-mail in May, city Economic Development Manager James Rinehart refers to the company’s “penchant for secrecy.” In another, shortly after the signing of the lease in July, Rinehart wrote that the company still didn’t want its name revealed because it was “working on a press release that takes into account that there are some people opposed to bottled water firms.”

First, let’s be clear: it’s not simply bottled water that’s drawing the ire of activists; it’s Nestle’s predatory behavior elsewhere that is creating across-the-board opposition to the company.

Nestle’s “penchant for secrecy” is a direct result of the company’s “penchant” for doing the wrong thing (whether that’s suing a tiny town, or fighting to keep pumping water even after it’s clear they’re damaging the watershed, or attempting to subpoena the private financial records of opponents, or…)

That Nestle fought so hard to keep their project a secret isn’t a surprise – they’ve followed that practice from the very beginning, and if there’s any justice in the universe, they’re suffering the consequences of their prior actions.

After all, they have nothing to hide beyond that which they’ve done in the past…

Nestle Sacramento Project Served With “Stop Work” Order

Nestle Waters of North America should probably be looking for the “kick me” sign taped to its back; the warm reception it initially received in Sacramento has turned chilly, and in fact, questions about the project and the permits have turned into a “stop work” order issued to the company (via the Sacramento Bee):

The city of Sacramento has ordered food giant Nestlé to stop work on construction of a new bottled water plant in south Sacramento while the City Council decides whether to impose new planning requirements on such facilities.

The council is scheduled to vote tonight on whether to require special permits for beverage bottling plants – which means they would have to go through public hearings before the Planning Commission and council.

Whatever the outcome, Nestle now has to wonder if its reputation – which is not exactly sterling – will continue to dog it even when chasing plants in formerly Nestle-friendly locations. It’s likely, and if anybody’s earned it, its the predatory Nestle.

Nestle’s Raid on Sacramento (Excellent Dan Bacher Op-Ed Piece)

**The following is a Dan Bacher Op-Ed piece about Nestle’s water bottling project in Sacramento**

Oct. 19, 2009 – Councilmember Kevin McCarty again raised the issue of the plan by Nestle to build a new bottling plant in South Sacramento at last Tuesday night’s Sacramento City Council meeting as grassroots community activists mobilized against the internationally boycotted corporation coming to the Capital City.

McCarty asked for the issue to be agendized for a future city council meeting so that an “urgency ordinance” can be passed, according to Save Our Water in Sacramento, the grassroots group fighting against Nestle’s plan to come to Sacramento after being kicked out of McCloud by massive local resistance.

“Councilmember McCarty will be asking the council to pass an urgency ordinance that would require a special permit for water bottling facilities in the city,” said Evan Tucker, an activist with Save Our Water. “This would require this type of project to come before the city council and be subject to environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act.”

“We are excited about this development, but concerned about the timeline,” Tucker stated. “If the council does not agendize this issue soon, it could be too late for the new law to affect Nestle. We want to make sure the ordinance would affect Nestle, not just bottling plants in the future.”

Vice Mayor Lauren Hammond also said she was concerned about water bottling in this city and wanted this issue addressed by the council, noted Tucker. However, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson supports the proposal by Nestle to open up the plant, claiming it would bring “jobs” to Sacramento.

Nestle claims the Sacramento plant would be a “micro-bottling plant,” bottling only 50 million gallons of water per year. However, according to the Department of Utilities, the estimated water usage is 215 thousand – 320 thousand gallons of water per day (78 – 116 millions per year). “This would make Nestle one of the top ten water users in Sacramento at a time when we are in our third consecutive year of a drought,” emphasized Tucker.

At a time when Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Senator Dianne Feinstein and California Legislators are campaigning for a peripheral canal to steal more water from the Sacramento River to supply unsustainable corporate agribusiness on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley and unsustainable development in southern California, we don’t need a huge corporation such as Nestle making immense profits off a public trust resource, Sacramento’s water supply!

Human rights activists and breast feeding advocates from throughout the world have boycotted the Swiss-based Nestle Corporation since 1977 because of the millions of deaths of infants it has caused over the decades. The boycott, coordinated by groups including Baby Milk Action, International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) , Infant Feeding Action Coalition (INFACT) and Save the Children, was prompted by concern about the company’s marketing of breast milk substitutes (infant formula), particularly in less economically developed countries, which campaigners claim contributes to the unnecessary death and suffering of babies, largely among the poor.

“Nestle is targeted with the boycott because monitoring conducted by the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) finds it to be responsible for more violations of the World Health Assembly marketing requirements for baby foods than any other company,” according to Baby Milk Action.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 1.5 million infants die around the world every year because they are not breastfed. Where water is unsafe, a bottle-fed child is up to 25 times more likely to die as a result of diarrhea than a breastfed child. “Marketing practices that undermine breastfeeding are potentially hazardous wherever they are pursued,” according to UNICEF.

Anti-Nestle organizations are sponsoring this year’s Nestle-Free Week from October 26 to November 1 in an effort to raise the profile of the boycott.

Do we want a criminal corporation responsible for the deaths of millions of infants come to Sacramento to make immense profits off our water supply?

Please spend a moment to contact Kevin McCarty and Lauren Hammond and let them know that you want the urgency ordinance passed in time to apply to Nestle. Contact Kevin McCarty at (916) 808-7006 or KMcCarty [at] cityofsacramento.org and Lauren Hammond at (916) 808-7005 or lhammond [at] cityofsacramento.org

Also, Save Our Water will be holding a screening of Tapped at the Crest Theater at 1013 K Street, Sacramento, on Wednesday, October 21. There will be screenings at 5:30 pm and 8 pm. Tickets will be regular box office prices: $9.50 for general admission, $6.00 for students & seniors. You can also purchase them online prior to the event at:
http://www.tickets.com/browseother.cgi?minpid=6622428

For more information, go to http://www.SaveOurWaterSacramento.org

Editor’ Note: Dan Bacher is editor of The Fish Sniffer: www.fishsniffer.com

StopNestleWaters Taking a Monthlong Break

It’s a coincidence that a new adventure in my life dovetails so neatly with Nestle’s withdrawal from McCloud, but I’m going to be largely unavailable for several weeks, so I’m going to take a little hard-earned, 30-day break from this blog.

When StopNestleWaters.org began life, it was focused on a couple key goals:

  • Provide rural activists with access to information about Nestle Waters of North America’s tactics in other towns, so they knew what to expect – and what to watch for
  • Hold Nestle Waters of North America accountable for its actions, hopefully undermining the “every community likes us” and “we’ve never harmed an aquifer or watershed” spin that’s constantly broadcast by PR staff and on-the-ground operatives
  • Generate excellent search engine placings, so those searching for information about Nestle’s bottling activities will find more than Nestle’s corporate Web sites on the first page of Google’s organic search results

Through the nearly 450 articles I’ve posted, I’ve succeeded at the latter, though the first two goals have only been partially met.

That’s a function of a lack of time, though I am gratified that we had a hand in making Nestle’s actions in other communities a real issue in Chaffee County and (hopefully) Cascade Locks.

Still, fighting a multinational like Nestle – and its surrogates, including the CEI and the International Bottled Water Institute – is a lot like putting your head in a vise, turning the handle until everything goes black, then waking up and doing the whole thing again.

At some point, you need a break, which is where I’m at now.

In addition, my business is changing – as are my priorities around my time – and so I’m taking a break from StopNestle Waters until (possibly) the end of October. At that time, I’ll evaluate the site, the effort needed to sustain it, and make some decisions.

I want to thank everyone who provided information, links and alerts, and wish everyone the best of luck in their efforts. In addition, I fervently hope that Nestle stops playing games with rural communities and the people who live in them. The divisive tactics and demonization of opponents has left a trail of broken communities in Nestle’s wake, and truly wish they’d start to become the “good corporate neighbor” they pretend they are.

Fight the good fight,

TC

Sacramento Citizens Not Uniformly Happy About Nestle (SaveOurWaterSacramento.org)

Opposition to Nestle’s zero-public-input, no Environmental Impact Report water bottling operation in Sacramento, CA, is coming under increasing scrutiny.

First, a group has formed to ask the tough questions that apparently the city staff didn’t ask, like how does this fit into the city’s Sustainability Master Plan?

To find out more, visit SaveOurWatersSacramento.org.

Cosmo Garvin of the News & Review riffs on the project, identifying a whole host of issues:

It’s been two months since Nestlé Waters North America announced they plan to build a new bottling plant in Sacramento, where they’ll suck up millions of gallons of delicious Sacramento tap water every year, in order to sell it back to us in plastic at 1,000 times the price (see “Something in the water,” SN&R Bites, July 30).

Well, unlike some mayors that Bites knows, not everybody thinks this is such a great deal for Sacramento. Meet Kristie Harris, spokeswoman for Save Our Water, dedicated to, well, saving our water from corporate takeover. Or, barring that, she at least wants city leaders to ask some basic questions before selling out.

“Giving Nestlé access to unlimited amounts of our water in the third year of a drought is completely unacceptable. There’s been no public forum on this, no environmental impact report, no critical analysis at all.”

via SN&R > Columns > Bites > Going against the flow > 09.24.09.