Tag Archives: Florida

Florida Bottlers May Start Paying For Water They Now Pump… for Free

In the “it’s freakin’ about time” category, Florida water bottlers (Nestle among them) may have to start paying a “severance” tax for the water they pump from aquifers. Currently bottlers pay only for the permits to pump the water (typically a couple hundred dollars), a situation even Republican politicos want changed.

This from the Miami Herald (read the whole story here):

In a rural North Florida town where the water tower bears the motto ”Tiny but Proud,” residents have a big secret: They give the cold, clear spring water that bubbles up from the aquifer below their soil to the nation’s largest bottled water company — for free.

Every day, Nestle Waters of North America sucks up an estimated 500,000 gallons from Madison Blue Springs, a limestone basin one mile north of town. It pipes the 70-degree water to its massive bottling plant and distribution center, fills 102,000 plastic containers an hour, pastes on Deer Park or Zephyrhills labels, boxes it up and ships half of it out of state.

The cost to the company for the water: a one-time $150 local water permit. Like 22 other bottled water companies in Florida, including giants Coca Cola and Pepsi Co., Nestle’s profit is 10 to 100 times the cost of each bottle. And the payment to Florida? Not a dime.

USA Today weighs in with Florida may charge bottlers for water:

Gov. Charlie Crist wants Florida’s water bottlers to start paying for the water they pump from aquifers in the state, The Miami Herald reports.

Outside the rural north Florida town of Lee, “every day, Nestle Waters of North America sucks up an estimated 500,000 gallons from Madison Blue Springs,” the paper says. You probably know it as Deer Park.

The company paid a one-time permit fee of $150. It’s one of 23 water bottlers in the state that doesn’t pay for their water, the Herald reports. Now Crist and some state lawmakers want to charge 6 cents a gallon.

That would translate to $56 million in the first year alone, money that would fund state water projects.

Florida’s Capital News Service had this to say:

Millions of gallons of Florida water are piped from the ground, bottled and shipped to other states every day. The state gets nothing. But as Mike Vasilinda tells us, More than 20 companies that bottle Florida water have gotten the Governor’s attention.

While bottlers (predictably) cry foul, several articles noted the disparity between asking residents to reduce water usage (due to drought) while water bottlers continue to send water out of state – for which the public receives nothing.

Go Florida.

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Florida Citizens Fight Back: More on Gilchrist County’s “NO” to Water Bottling Permit

Bottled water is taking lumps at every point of the compass – from McCloud to Maine to Michigan to Florida, where local residents have beaten back yet another proposed water bottling plant.

From Alternet, here’s another Gilchrist/Santa Fe River article in its entirety:

Florida Fights Back Against Bottled Water Extraction

Over 200 residents from Gilchrist, Alachua, Columbia and Suwannee Counties in Florida came out on Tuesday to demonstrate their opposition to a proposed bottling facility along the Santa Fe River. After six hours of public testimony the County Commission voted 4-1 to deny a “special use” permit to allow Blue Springs Properties Inc. to extract water from a spring on the river. The new bottling facility would have pumped a minimum 500,000 gallons of water a day. Coca-Cola already operates a facility 5,000 feet from the proposed site that can pump up to 1.2 million gallons of water a day.

Local residents expressed concern over the environmental impacts of the facility, as extracting large volumes of water from the Santa Fe River could decrease its flow and water levels. As of September 30, the area’s water management district had not completed an environmental impact study on how the proposed facility might affect the Santa Fe River. The facility also would have increased traffic in the area, with over 100 hundred trucks a day entering and leaving the area, adding a significant amount of pollution and noise, while compromising the safety of local roads.

The County Planning Commission cited an incompatibility between the facility and its own goals of containing development within the area and protecting its natural resources. In March the Commission voted unanimously to recommend denial of the proposed plant, citing a lack of compatibility with the area, insufficient public infrastructure and safety concerns associated with truck traffic. Minutes from that meeting also reveal that as of March, a number of issues such as light pollution, storm water management, site ingress and egress, site coverage, determination of water recharge areas, buffer zones and wetlands delineation had yet to be determined.

The area’s economy relies on the river and its springs, which are major tourist attractions. While the precise extent of the facility’s impact on the area’s tourism industry is unknown, taking significant quantities of water from the springs would deplete their levels and natural beauty, making them less attractive to visitors.

Presently, the Santa Fe River is a tributary to the famous Suwannee River and both are listed as impaired rivers by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP). It is necessary to maintain the historic flow from the springs to support the delicate balance of the water ecosystem.

“We are very pleased that the Gilchrist County Commission has decided to deny this permit,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of the consumer advocacy group Food & Water Watch, one of the groups that opposed the permit. “If approved, this permit could have ignited a domino effect where future extractions are sanctioned with little regard for the consequences they may have on the area’s ecosystem and communities. Once a permit has been obtained, a bottler can request at any time for more water to be extracted. The bottled water industry is notorious for its lack of regulation. Few quotas exist to limit the amount of water a company can extract as they are self regulated in the state of Florida.”

“Tuesday’s hearing and vote is emblematic of the power that people everywhere have to speak up in protection of vital natural resources,” said Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson, board member of Our Santa Fe River, Inc., a local citizen group opposed to the extraction of water for the bottled water business. “Public interest prevailed because citizens showed up and lent their voices to this extremely important public dialog.”

This battle in Florida is just one part of a national endeavor to fight corporate efforts to bottle water from local supplies. Earlier in the year, activists in Wells, Maine halted a plan by Nestle to open a well to extract more water for its Poland Springs brand. Similarly, in McCloud, California activists mobilized to cancel a contract with Nestle to pump water from nearby Mount Shasta Springs. “What’s happening on the Santa Fe River is not an isolated incident. Communities around the country are mobilizing to stop the confiscation of their water by corporate interests. They want control of their water for their own purposes, not to see it commoditized and sold back to them at over 250 times its actual value,” said Hauter.

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Nestle Continues Legal Assault Against Opponents: This Time it’s Miami-Dade

For all Nestle Waters of North America’s pretense at being a “good corporate neighbor,” they’ve got a hair-trigger response to opposition: File a lawsuit (or threaten one).

Their latest legal bludgeoning is aimed at Miami-Dade County in Florida, which had the temerity to suggest its tap water was tested more frequently than bottled water products (true), and that buying bottled water was a waste (also true).

Unfortunately, this little exercise in free speech angered Nestle, who is now threatening to sue, despite not being named in the ads. From the Miami-Herald, we present Bottled water firm steamed about Miami-Dade water ads

In the radio ad, a talking faucet extols Miami-Dade’s tap water as cheaper, purer and safer than bottled water.

It may have sounded innocuous to most listeners, but the 30-second spot left the nation’s largest purveyor of bottled water boiling mad.

Nestle Waters North America, which makes nearly $4 billion a year selling Zephyrhills and other brands, is threatening to sue if the county doesn’t kill commercials the company brands as false advertising.

”It’s an attack on the integrity of the company,” said Nestle spokesman Jim McClellan. “It’s an attack on the product we produce — and it’s blatantly wrong.”

With the ads ending a five-week run last month and no plans to revive it, the county considers the legal issues moot. But John Renfrow, director of the Water and Sewer Department, defended the county’s right to tout its tap water. ”Basically, the message is that our water is fine,” he said. “It’s wonderful. It’s delicious. This is just one of many different spots we’ve done.”

Nestle’s bluster seems oddly misplaced; why mount a legal assault when the ad campaign has already run it’s course?

Simple.

Because they don’t want any other utilities getting the same idea.

In other words, this is a shot across the bow – a preemptive attempt at legal intimidation of others.

Unfortunately, intimidating legal action is standard fare at the company, which tried to subpoena the private financial records of opponents in McCloud, and has sued the tiny town of Fryeburg five times in an apparent attempt to warn other small towns about the consequences of saying “no.”

From the same Miami Herald story:

Environmentalists blasted the threat against the state’s largest utility — believed to be a first — as a warning shot from an industry worried about slow sales after years of gushing growth.

“Nestle should be ashamed for harassing Miami for promoting its own water,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Washington-based Food & Water Watch. “This is just outrageous. It’s just a way to scare off other utilities.”

Apparently, even speaking the truth about tap vs bottled water is enough to draw a legal threat out of Nestle, which doesn’t seem to have a case.

Linda Young, director of the Florida Clean Water Network, which has
opposed state environmental permits for bottlers, called Nestle’s
arguments dubious.

”Tap water is superior in some ways. It’s
right there in your house,” she said. “If these companies think
they’re going to come into Florida and threaten citizens or governments
when we give an opinion, that’s another reason to make them leave.”

The statements of Nestle’s operatives also highlight another little bit of hypocrisy; Nestle has long maintained they don’t denigrate public water supplies to sell bottled water, but there it is black and white:

Nestles’ Mathews argues that additional treatment
— including reverse osmosis, ozone disinfection instead of chlorine
and sealed bottles — delivers a better, and better tasting, product
than tap.

Here’s an open question for Nestle: when is all the pushback you receive for your predatory tactics going to result in an honest reassessment of your tactics – instead of another lawsuit?

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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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