Tag Archives: blue springs

Success! Gilchrist County Denies Water Bottling Plant Permit

Good news from Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson (Our Santa Fe River): 250 locals appeared, 50 spoke out against the proposed water bottling plant (one spoke for it), and Blue Springs Properties’ request for a “special use permit” to build a water bottling facility was denied by a 4 to 1 vote.

Gilchrist county says "no" to water bottling plant
Gilchrist county says "no" to water bottling plant

It’s still not clear who the company behind the proposed water bottling plant really was. It was one of five proposed for a three-mile stretch of the Santa Fe River, but the company behind this particular development – Blue Springs Properties – refused to disclose the information.

Democracy may still work in the face of greedy water bottling companies, but it’s not speedy; the meeting started at 6 pm, but didn’t adjourn until 12:45 am the next morning.

Ouch.

More on this story as I get it.

Residents Fighting Yet Another Bottling Plant in Florida: One of Five Permits for Santa Fe River

In Florida, an overwhelming number of residents seemingly oppose issuing a permit for another water bottling plant on the Santa Fe River (five permits are in the works), yet a denial of the permit is hardly a done deal – even though the water bottling company involved has yet to be identified by the property owner.

From the High Springs Herald:

A special Gilchrist County Commission meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the Trenton High School Auditorium to discuss a special permit that would allow a bottled water plant to pump 500,000 gallons of water a day from a spring system called Blue Springs near Rum Island.

The meeting is being held at the high school because at a previous meeting in March, there was no room for the more than 200 people who showed up at the county chambers to voice their opinions about the bottled water plant.

In fact, some people had to sit in a building across the street from the chambers and watch the meeting on a TV monitor.

Most of the people who spoke at that meeting were against the plant being built.

An interesting reader comment to the story helped illustrate why there’s so much resident hostility towards this project and several others:

With 5 permit applications for water bottling plants on a 3 mile stretch of the Santa Fe River it is estimated that we are facing 1200 diesel tanker trucks roaring day in night through High Springs

An article on Nestle’s activities in Florida is in the works; it highlights the fact Nestle lobbied hard to take more from their Blue Springs station than recommended by biologists, and then returned approximately half the number of jobs they promised to the area.

Good deal for the locals? Not unless you like truck traffic (and lots of it).

More on this after the meeting.

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The Top Six Reasons Why Small Communities Can’t Trust Nestle Waters, Part I

It was never my goal to write a “Stop Nestle Waters” blog, but Nestle Waters of North America’s heavy-handed attempt to subpoena the private financial records of opponents of their proposed McCloud bottling plant – a list which included friends of mine – galvanized me into looking into their business practices.


(image courtesy Vanessa Fitzgerald)

It was an eye-opening exercise; Nestle’s dealings with small rural towns – the frequent targets of their water extraction projects – tend to follow a distressingly similar arc.

I’ve researched the stories and spoken to locals, and compiled six of the most common – and most predatory – behaviors exhibited by Nestle.

If I were a rural town contemplating getting into bed with Nestle – or a citizen who’s heard rumblings of a deal – I’d look very, very hard for telltale Nestle behaviors like:

#1. Nestle Negotiates Behind Closed Doors – Out of Public View

“I didn’t know the town was even considering selling our water to Nestle/Poland Spring/Arrowhead/Ice Mountain/whatever until it was almost signed.”

The above refrain has popped up so often, it couldn’t possibly be considered coincidental. Nestle likes to fast-track projects and negotiate out of the public spotlight – leaving residents to fight a contract already in place (or simply to give up).

In 2003, residents of McCloud, CA, were stunned to discover that Nestle’s representatives – including a lawyer paid for by Nestle who reviewed the contract for the McCloud Services District – had been negotiating with the town’s Services District without any public oversight. When the contract was approved by the Services District at the end of the first (and only) public meeting about the contract – effectively removing the public from the process – residents revolted.

Those unhappy residents and a handful environmental groups finally forced Nestle to nullify the contract, and the event has become a case study in grassroots revolt.

It’s also now clear Nestle tried to pull a fast one in Clinton, where Poland Spring (Nestle’s Maine brand) and the Clinton Board of Selectman were negotiating in secret while representing to the public that little was happening.

A citizen’s group started sniffing around, and in what looks like a clear attempt to hide the extent of the negotiations, the selectman actually destroyed a Memorandum of Understanding they’d signed (though Nestle hadn’t).

In Kennebunk, public notice of an impending 30-year deal with Nestle was limited to an item in the water district’s newsletter and a single press release. Fortunately, residents caught on before the deal was finished, and forced a tabling of the contract.

These are hardly the only examples; any examination of Nestle’s record reveals the same endlessly repeating – and largely predatory – pattern.

#2. Nestle Uses a Legal Bludgeon to Subvert Local Control & Intimidate Opponents

If you don’t believe Nestle tries to intimidate opponents via legal means, then simply ask the residents of Fryeburg, Maine, who have said repeatedly said “no” to Nestle/Poland Spring’s 50 trucks-per-day loading station. That triggered repeated lawsuits, where Nestle tried to force the town to accept its high-impact project in a residential area.

Four appeals later (that’s five suits total), the matter’s been all the way to the Maine Supreme Court, where Nestle argued its right to grow its market share superceded the town’s right to say no.

And Nestle’s still filing appeals.

I spoke with a Fryeburg organizer yesterday, who feared Nestle’s transparent attempts to wear down the opposition might be succeeding: “People are tired of the fight; they don’t want to talk about water and they’re sick of the issue.”

In McCloud, opponents of Nestle’s plant found their private, personal financial records subpoenaed in response to a local environmental group’s lawsuit. A judge quashed the attempt, but Nestle’s clear attempt to intimidate opponents shocked even those with little interest in the fight.

In Mecosta County, Michigan, Nestle lost a lawsuit when a judge ruled they were damaging a watershed by overpumping. Forced to reduce their pumping volume by half – and rather than take the environmentally responsible route – Nestle sought to overturn the law by which the groups sued them (they their case in front of a very conservative state court).

Nestle’s “aggressive” legal tactics appear in many communities where citizens dare oppose them. Is that the work of a “good corporate neighbor?” It doesn’t look that way from here.

#3. Nestle Fails to Safeguard Watersheds or Perform Environmental Studies

Let’s give credit where it’s due – Nestle typically protects the aquifer upstream of their pumping stations (that’s where their profit lies after all), but despite a lot of rhetoric to the contrary, Nestle has consistently failed to protect watersheds downstream of their pumping plants.

While Nestle makes a lot of noises about its environmental efforts – a visit to its Web site suggests it’s one shade less green than Mother Nature – Nestle has already lost a court case in Mecosta County, MI, and was ordered to immediately cease pumping to prevent further damage to the watershed.

In Florida, Nestle aggressively lobbied to extract 1.47-million gallons per day from drought-stricken Blue Springs – while state water scientists wanted the amount set at 400,000 gallons per day to protect the spring, running at the lowest flows ever recorded.

The result? Nestle got its full allotment – after state political appointees interceded on their behalf.

In McCloud, they often repeated their claim that extracting 521,000,000+ gallons of water annually from springs feeding Squaw Creek wouldn’t affect the creek at all – despite the fact that they had never bothered to measure the flows in Squaw Creek.

In addition, they blithely suggested their 600 truck trips per day wouldn’t have any substantive impacts.

Good environmental steward?

Not when it comes to watersheds.

In the same vein, suggesting that cities and states should step up their recycling efforts (at taxpayer expense) to better dispose of the 85%+ of Nestle’s plastic water bottles that end up in landfills doesn’t exactly qualify them for environmental sainthood.

Stay tuned for more, including Part II – Three more reasons why small, rural communities can’t trust Nestle Waters.

In the meantime, Enjoy Your Waters, Tom Chandler.

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Nestle Waters of North America Promises Jobs, Delivers Mostly Hot Air

Nestle often dangles a big carrot when approaching rural communities: the promise of “jobs” numbering in the hundreds.

That’s powerful stuff in an economically depressed rural community, yet – unfortunately for rural areas – Nestle’s job claims don’t stand up to scrutiny.

For example, the St. Petersburg Times reports on Nestle’s Blue Springs project, where Nestle’s job promises were clearly inflated:

Nestle had promised to create 300 jobs over five years. The most people it has ever employed was about 250. The number dropped to 205 late last year, 46 of them from Georgia, which Nestle defends as common for a work force along a state line.

If you’re counting, that’s 150 local jobs, and given that better-paying jobs are often given to new arrivals brought in from other places, it’s clear that Florida residents aren’t benefiting like they should.

Economic Study Questions Nestle’s Promises in McCloud

In McCloud, CA, Nestle once dangled the prospect of up to 300 jobs at its proposed bottling plant, yet low-paying jobs – the kind typically offered to locals while better-paying jobs are handed to outsiders – go largely begging at two other local bottling plants.

While Nestle proponents often tout the Nestle bottling plant as a way to attract and keep families in the tiny town of McCloud, it’s clear that a $10/hour job – which falls below the area’s living wage – isn’t going to attract many (if any) families to the area.

In addition, an ECONorthwest economic study concluded that the net economic effect of a bottling plant can even run into the red once impacts on lifestyle amenities, roads, and other factors are weighed.

The following is from the summary of ECONorthwest’s report:

Looking at Crystal Geyser and Coca Cola, low-paying production jobs are hard to fill. There is no guarantee employees would be from McCloud and the majority of these positions would not attract new residents. People from outside McCloud would likely fill higher paying jobs. (Pages: 35-40)

Nestle will not improve unemployment rates or overall employment levels in McCloud or Siskiyou County (Pages: 35-40)

The facility would likely displace current employment at existing firms and employment that would have materialized in the future thus the net job increase at full build out is likely closer to 70 jobs.

Keep in mind the “net job increase at full build out” was projected for Nestle’s 1 million sq. ft. plant. With that project dead and gone – and any new project likely to be much smaller – the number of jobs will shrink, as will any real benefits to the region.

Rural communities would do well to carefully weigh all the economic impacts of a water bottling plant – and the veracity of Nestle’s often-empty promises of jobs.

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