Tag Archives: kennebunk

Nestle Water Extraction Subject of Meeting, Legislation in Maine

The ongoing controversy around water extraction in the Kennebunk, ME area continues – this time driven by competing legislation, and a promise from Nestle/Poland Spring that they won’t “bully” their way into the water (a promise their representative promptly breaks when he minimizes Nestle foes).

From the Sanford-Springvale Register:

Although temperatures have rarely been warm enough to thaw it, water remains a hot topic in the New Year in York County.

Specifically, questions on how to regulate commercial water extraction are the basis of a bill submitted by freshman legislator Ed Legg D-Kennebunk, and the subject of a workshop scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 28, by Shapleigh selectmen to consider creating a town ordinance.

Legg would like consumer-owned water utilities to host public hearings and get voter approval to sell water commercially. His bill was introduced in response to the proposed agreement made last summer by the Kennebunk, Kennebunkport and Wells Water District to allow Poland Spring Water Company to extract as much as 432,000 gallons of water a day for bottling.

In Shapleigh, the workshop expected to be attended by selectmen Ruth Ham, Michael Perro and Bill Hayes; town attorney Ron Bourque and hydrogeologist John Tewhey; and five members of Protecting Our Water and Wildlife Resources POWWR will try to find compromise for two competing ordinances for commercial water extraction.

At the end of the article, Nestle’s representative does what Nestle representatives can’t seem to help doing – attempt to cast foes in an unfavorable light by minimizing their numbers and labeling opposition as “noise.”

Should the water be to the company’s liking, Brennan said it would not “bully its way into town,” but added the noise of the opposition to Poland Spring’s presence was not indicative of the number of company foes.

“I don’t think it is a lot of people, but they are very vocal and active,” Brennan said.

With locals from both sides of the issue trying to meet and settle their differences, snarky behavior from a Swiss-based multinational doesn’t seem like the most helpful thing.

Maine News Site Looks Back at 2008: Poland Springs, Water Issue Top List

Maine’s Seacoast online looks at the top stories of 2008, and not surprisingly, Nestle Water, Poland Spring and thei related water issues led the list:

When word got out this summer that the Kennebunk Kennebunkport Wells Water District was thinking of selling up to 432,000 gallons of water a day to Nestle/Poland Springs, the reaction was immediate and largely negative.

Opponents organized themselves into a group called Save Our Water, held rallies and meetings, and soon garnered the attention of the national media. They called upon the water district trustees to vote the sale down, and argued that the KKWWD would be giving away the community’s precious natural resources.

Water issues elsewhere in Maine were also mentionedt:

At the November election in Wells, voters approved a question that called for a temporary moratorium on large scale water extraction, to give the town sufficient time to create a permanent ordinance dealing with the subject. The question resulted from a citizen’s initiative. In Ogunquit, voters approved a question favoring a prohibition on the sale of water by KKWWD for resale as bottled water. That question also resulted from a citizen’s petition.

It’s tempting to classify the Kennebunk mess as yet another case of Nestle/Poland Spring trying to quietly spirit away a lot of water – and getting nabbed in the process by the citizenry – but despite a great deal of protest, the issue isn’t yet settled:

Some, though, think the time may be coming soon for the water discussion to begin in Kennebunk again.

“I don’t think the issue is dead,” said Kennebunk Town Manager Barry Tibbetts. “More public discourse needs to happen.”

vLet’s hope the public is included in any discussion – and that Nestle/Poland Spring don’t unfairly influence that discussion with their big-dollar PR firms, misleading advertising, and nasty habit of spreading just enough dollars around small rural towns to factionalize the community.

News: Kennebunk Selectman Reject Water Moratorium Ballot Measure

The Kennebunk Selectman have declined to put a citizen-driven moratorium on water extraction on the ballot, angering residents – who almost saw their water district sign a 30-year agreement with Nestle/Poland Spring without any significant public review.

Selectmen reject water moratorium ballot measure

Kennebunk resident Bill Craven said residents do not feel sufficiently protected in light of negotiations between Kennebunk, Kennebunkport and Wells Water District and Nestlé water subsidiary Poland Spring.

The proposed contract, which was tabled by water district trustees July 17, would have allowed Poland Spring to begin the permitting process to pump water from the Barrens, part of the Branch Brook watershed, originating near the Sanford Airport and along the Kennebunk and Wells town line.

“If there hadn’t been protest from citizens, we could be locked in with a 30 year contract with Poland Spring,” said Kennebunk resident Robert Wuerthner. “There was not adequate opportunity for public input.”

That Darned, Intrusive Public

Once again, we’re witness to a small, rural community entering (or almost entering) into a long-term agreement with  Nestle/Poland Spring without little or no public notice and input.

“Why,” you might ask, “does this keep happening whenever Nestle’s involved?”

  • McCloud, CA, residents found themselves locked into a 100 year contract with Nestle at the end of the first public meeting – without any public input whatsoever
  • The Sterling/Clinton fight over Wekepeke water found one group of Selectman secretely engaging in talks with Nestle where they actually signed – then destroyed – a memorandum of understanding when citizens started asking questions

In this case, the Kennebunk, Kennbunkport and Wells Water District almost signed a contract after minimal public notification: a note in the newsletter and a press release were deemed sufficient notice by Water District Superintendent Norm Labbe.

Residents didn’t agree.

The Water District has agreed not to negotiate with Nestle for “at least six months, maybe a year” – the kind of prevarication that doesn’t soothe the nerves of rattled residents, who simply want time to construct a local water extraction ordinance.

Nestle’s Penchant for Secrecy

In the past, I’ve decried Nestle’s prefernce for secret negotiations and rapacious contracts – that place the needs of the company ahead of the needs of the community (in McCloud, the now-defunct contract gave Nestle water priority over residents).

Apparently, I’m not alone:

Aside from water extraction, El-Shafei said she was concerned about the
contract because Poland Springs asked the water district to support the
company’s interest rather than the town’s in case of legal action.

In simplest terms, Nestle hasn’t proven itself particularly trustworthy; its repeated legal bludgeonings of Fryeburg and attempts to avoid engaging stakeholders serves as ample evidence of their avarice, yet Nestle repeatedly says they’re “unfairly targeted” by opponents.

Can Nestle abandon its old business model – where it splits towns, negotiates in secret, and pretends to have the best interests of small towns at hear while it invokes rapacious contract terms – before it can’t find a friendly face anywhere?

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PBS Covers Maine Bottled Water Issue, Sidesteps a Few Critical Questions

The bottled water issue is attracting a fair amount of national media attention – something unlikely to make water profiteers like Nestle particularly happy.

I’m always happy to see media coverage of the issue. Yet a recent PBS in this piece about Maine’s water wars fell just a little wide of the mark. (Transcript here; audio and streaming video feeds available on same page.)

The show focused the first half of the report on “angry” residents – without really exploring why they were angry. After all, yet another “public” meeting had turned into a largely private affair, where a large portion of the public simply weren’t allowed to speak or attend. (Perhaps our Nestle readers could explain why this keeps happening whenever Nestle’s involved?)

And unfortunately, PBS fell hook, line and sinker for Nestle’s “we care for the aquifer” spin.

In truth, Nestle does care for the upstream part of the aquifer. That’s where their profits lie.

Where Nestle is basically shucking and jiving is on the downstream end. In Mecosta County, MI, Nestle repeatedly lost court decisions where they contended they weren’t harming the watershed.

At one point they were ordered to stop pumping, and now pump only 218 gallons per minute.

In the tiny town of McCloud, Nestle repeatedly asserted there was no potential for downstream damage to the world-famous McCloud River fishery – despite never once monitoring the flows in Squaw Creek (the trib most affected by their proposed bottling plant).

No impacts? How would they know?

Evidence suggests Nestle’s “concern” for the aquifer extends only as far as their bottom line.

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