Tag Archives: Maine

Maine’s Water Activists Gather at Tapped Movie Premier

Maine’s water activists were well represented at the premier of the bottled water documentary Tapped, and yes, we’ve got the video.

The movie has already drawn some response from Nestle and the bottled water trade association, and given Nestle’s willingness to (ahem) bend the truth in their video response to the movie Flow, I expect no different here.

Letter From Save Our Water in Maine

Protest  Nestle Lawyers writing Wells Regulatory Ordinance at the Wells Select Board’s Meeting

Tuesday, June 2nd at 6:30pm
Activists and allies will meet in front of the Wells Town Hall  on rt#109, for a protest.
At 7:00pm,  we will go into the Town Hall  for the Select Board Meeting to voice our outrage about the Nestle lawyers writing the Wells Town Ordinance and the corruption of the Ordinance writing process.

Contact: Jamilla El-Shafei cell: 603.969.8426 email: jamillaelshafei@gmail.com
Organized by SoH2o  Save Our Water  www.soh2o.org in solidarity with P.O.W.W.

At the Wells Ordinance Review Committee Meeting, Nestle/Poland Springs resource manager Mark DuBois and lawyer Philip Ahrens from Pierce Atwood addressed the O.R.C. with their changes of the Wells Water Regulatory Ordinance which is being proposed. That happened, in spite of the fact, that the ORC would not allow “public comment” from anyone outside of the town of Wells.

Who gave Nestle the ordinance and why? Who is really writing the ordinance- the  Ordinance Review Committee from Wells,  OR Nestle? Will the Wells Select Board take a stand and represent the citizens?

The people who reside in the region of the Branch Brook Aquifer and KKW Water District have clearly stated that although they did not want a rights-based ordinance, they do NOT want to sell their water to Nestle. The Wells Select Board is supposed to represent the citizens, so we are asking “will they  continue to allow the ORC to get assistance from the Nestle Corporation in crafting language for the ordinance?”

We do know from experience, that when there was a contract on the table between Nestle and the KKW Water District, that it was one-sided and written by the Nestle lawyers and pitted the citizens against the water district. Will the proposed ordinance be detrimental to landowners with wells, if there are problems when Nestle mines water? Must the town of Wells side with Nestle in event of a lawsuit, as was the case in the proposed contract with the KKW Water District.  The proposed contract between Nestle and the KKW Water District can be found on the web site of www.soh2o.org
It  is but one of many examples which demonstrates that Nestle calls the shots in each community where they operate.

This will surely be a heated meeting! We hope that the media will join us and shed light on the corruption which has been taking place in Wells.

Additional Information:

It appears that Nestle has funded the  Wells Chamber of Commerce’s attack on the rights-based ordinance, on Save Our Water and on me personally, in an effort to discredit the Water Justice Movement and to advance their  Water Mining Agenda. Three out of five Select Board members have been  actively promoting  Nestle, in spite of  overwhelming public opinion which indicated that citizens do NOT want to sell  water from the Branch Brook Aquifer the multi-national corporation.

Maine Drought in 2001/2002 Caused Massive Water Shortages For Residents, Belies Nestle Claims of Perennial Abundance

While Nestle Waters/Poland Spring claims that Maine’s groundwater is so abundant, there simply won’t be issues with extraction – or that groundwater pumping couldn’t harm anyone’s well or aquifer – they seem to have forgotten what happened in 2002, when Maine residents struggled with severe water shortages, record-low groundwater levels, and dried-up private wells:

Area water resources improved since 2002 drought | SeacoastOnline.com

The year 2002 found Maine at the forefront of national news as its residents struggled for the fourth year in a row to adapt to a shortage in the water supply. A report by the U.S. Geological Survey said the drought “was the most severe drought on Maine rivers in more than 50 years.”

According to a New York Times article from March 15, 2002, whole neighborhoods on Sebago Lake were forced to flush their toilets only once a day, to forgo the use of their washing machines and use bottled water to brush their teeth.

Things were bad the state over.

According to a report by the Senator George J. Mitchell Center for Environmental and Watershed Research at the University of Maine, “Maine experienced the worst drought in over 30 years during 2001 and 2002.”

Groundwater, lakes and streams went to record lows, and thousands of private wells went dry. Public water utilities were forced to tell customers to cut back on consumption and, looking ahead, seek out alternate water sources.

Yet Maine today is a water-rich state, said John Peckenham, the director of the Maine Water Resources Research Institute at the University of Maine.

“But we are vulnerable to changes in weather, like the drought of 1999-2001,” he said. “A lot of water suppliers were affected then, including the (Kennebunk, Kennebunkport, and Wells Water District).”

As for Nestle’s claims of monitoring to “protect” the resource, you only have to look to the Mecosta County (MI) for proof to the contrary, where residents had to take Nestle Waters to court to halt excessive pumping, which was damaging a wetlands and a lake.

In fact, when some residents complained that Nestle’s pumping was lowering the lakes so much their docks no longer reached the water, Nestle’s concern for the resource consisted of little more than offering to extend the docks.

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Poland Spring Fighting Maine Legislature to Preserve Profits

Via the Portland Press Herald, we learn about what’s starting to look like a general uprising against Nestle/Poland Spring’s business model of profiting heavily from water while externalizing every other cost to the public. Poland Spring feels the heat in Augusta | Portland Press Herald

Poland Spring is fighting a number of measures as lawmakers consider proposals ranging from a tax on bottled water to a bill that would allow local communities to deny corporations their constitutional rights. The proposals come as the water bottler has also had to contend with the recession, growing public distaste toward plastic bottles and opposition to its activities in a number of Maine communities.

Today, the Taxation Committee holds a public hearing on a proposed penny-a-gallon tax. The tax would apply to containers of five gallons or less, with half the revenue offsetting other taxes; 25 percent to watershed and water-quality protection; and 25 percent to the community from which the water was extracted.

Also up for discussion is a bill allowing cities to treat corporations differently than individuals – the issue at the heart of the bans voted in by citizens in Newfield and Shapleigh.

On Wednesday, the State and Local Government Committee considers a bill that would allow municipalities to deny corporations constitutional rights. Discussion among committee members and a vote are possible during the work session.

The measure is related to local water-extraction ordinances promoted by activists in several communities. The local ordinances state that corporations doing business in the community do not have the protections found in the federal and state constitutions.

Residents of Newfield and Shapleigh have approved such measures in recent months. Selectmen in Wells had voted against putting the measure on the ballot, but a petition drive gathered enough signatures to force a special town meeting that will be held May 16.

“We’re trying to protect our own aquifer here in southern Maine because we don’t want to get in bed with Nestle. And we want the right as local people to protect our local resources,” said Cynthia Howard, a Biddeford architect and a member of Save Our Water, or SOH2O.

This one faces a much tougher battle, and the state attorney general’s office thinks it might just be unconstitutional. It’s also been derided as “anti-business” though we have to comment; this wouldn’t be necessary if some businesses were more citizen friendly (and yes, we mean you, our lawsuit-happy friends at Nestle).

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“How Your Town Can Keep Its Water Out of Corporate Hands”

Intelligent words from AfterDowningStreet.org: How Your Town Can Keep Its Water Out of Corporate Hands: A Test Case

This is certainly not the first time that a multi-national corporation treated Maine as if they were a colonial power entitled to our resources. In the past, international paper companies have turned our rivers brown from pollution and huge timber companies have exploited our forests. But the battle over our pure groundwater resources has become the tipping point in Maine. Community after community are now resisting corporate control.

The battle in Newfield and Shapleigh began when resident Ann Wentworth was hiking in the Wildlife Preserve and discovered that Nestle had (illegally) drilled several “test” wells without notifying the townspeople. The community was shocked, which galvanized support of the activists efforts to stop Nestle.

This was not an easy victory, as Nestle sent “representatives” out into the community to convince the residents of both Newfield and Shapleigh that they would be “a good neighbor.” Nestle also spent tens of thousands of dollars on advertising in the community and it is alleged that they offered money to the fire department for new equipment. However, to quote activist Sol Linowitz, “The way to beat organized money is with organized people.”

The P.O.W.W.R. water activists and allies know their neighbors, and once people understood that it was in fact the Nestle Corporation who was after their water and not the small Maine- owned Poland Springs company of years past, the townspeople did their homework and decided that this was not a company that they wanted to do business with. Nestle has been on the non-profit Corporate Accountability’s Hall of Shame for years, as one of the world’s worst corporations. This bad reputation goes back over 30 years during the baby formula scandal in Africa to the present baby formula scandal in China.

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More on the Shapleight “Rights-Based” Water Extraction Ordinance

This from the Portland Press Herald outlines the basic clash between citizens and their own Board of Selectmen, who apparently haven’t been listening to their citizens. You can read the entire article at Shapleigh closes tap for water companies:

During a special town meeting Saturday morning, residents voted 114 to 66 to adopt the ban drafted by Protecting Our Water and Wildlife Resources, which had opposed Poland Spring’s efforts to test, draw, bottle and market the town’s water.

The ban had been opposed by the town’s Board of Selectmen, which had favored instead a set of regulations on drawing water in the town that will be on the warrant for the regular town meeting on March 14.

“The problem in Shapleigh is that all three selectpeople want Nestle (Poland Spring’s parent company) in here,” said Shelly Gobeille, one of the leaders of POWWR. “This vote says they can’t come in.”

Will we see yet another attempt by Nestle/Poland Spring to bypass local control? Given the questions being asked by other small towns about Nestle/Poland Spring’s legal activities in Maine’s small towns, do they dare? Do they care?

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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.

Fryeburg Faces Nestle Lawsuit Yet Again: Local Control of Streets at Issue

The folks of Fryeburg aren’t enamored of the idea of a 24/7 truck loading station in a residentially zoned area, but when Nestle Waters of North America is involved, local control over water, streets and lifestyle dies not with a bang, but with a lawsuit.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=47_e3VWKJgc[/youtube]

As is often the case, the argument ultimately doesn’t revolve around what’s right or reasonable (I’m suggesting a 24/7 truck loading station in a residential area – running 50 trucks per day – isn’t a particularly reasonable land use).

Instead, it revolves around interpretation of of ambiguous passages of the law – a practice similar to divining the future via goat entrails.

What’s clear is Nestle’s “good corporate neighbor” PR spin is a facade; a truck loading station returns little to the town of Fryeburg save a small bump in property taxes. Yet the downside is clear; Fryeburg “enjoys” trucks rumbling along at all hours of the day or night, diesel fumes, the noise, etc.

Nestle knows this, and it’s treating Fryeburg in the same manner it treats other small, rural towns who don’t roll over and play dead – they release the legal hounds, who are better funded than their citizen counterparts.

No matter how the decision goes in Fryeburg, the real lesson has already been learned.

Activists Dump Plastic Water Bottles in Front of Nestle Waters’ Maine Legal Firm

The Water in the News blog mentioned a citizen’s protest I wish I’d seen – anti-Nestle Waters of North America activists in Maine dumped bags of empty plastic water bottles in front of Nestle/Poland Spring’s law firm (Pierce Atwood).

On Friday, November 14, 2008, Maine youth teamed with Native Forest Network and Defending Water for Life to protest a Portland law firm for its role in the commodification of Maine’s groundwater.

People from across Maine brought trash bags full of empty plastic water bottles to Pierce Atwood to demonstrate the physical ramifications of the corporate bottling industry for Maine’s landfills.

The Portland-based law firm represents both Nestlé Waters North America and the Nature Conservancy in their water acquisition projects throughout Maine.

Now the law firm – a fixture in the lawsuit-plagued town of Fryeburg – can also “enjoy” what town landfills all over Maine experience on a daily basis – piles of plastic waste generated delivering something that flows into almost every house.

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Nestle Spokesperson Goes Public on Maine Blog, Misrepresents Fryeburg Fiasco

It’s rare when a Nestle Waters of North America spokesperson speaks in a public forum where their conclusions can be questioned, but Nestle/Poland Spring operative Mark Dubois posted several comments to this Maine blog – including one where Nestle’s spin plays out in all its glory.

He positions Poland Spring as a Maine company (it’s been a Nestle “brand” since the company was purchased by Nestle), and mischaracterizes opposition to the Fryeburg loading station thusly:

Any suggestion that Fryeburg has repeatedly said no to a truck loading station ignores the fact that the planning board approved our application in 2005 after a lengthy process and thoroughly written decision after numerous public hearings. The appeal of that decision by
a small number of opponents in town is what has triggered the series of appeals since that time. The matter is now pending in the Maine Law Court and everyone is hoping that the Court’s decision will put this matter to rest.

My response to Nestle’s spin?

First, the original permit was issued in a way that suggests poor public process (which follows Nestle around like a shadow). It was written by one person on the planning commission – the same person who later secretly advised Nestle what was happening in the town via email – a relationship Nestle/Poland Spring (wasn’t it you, sir?) denied even
existed before a reporter produced the emails.

The original appeal was hardly the work of a “small number of opponents” (the same characterization used by Nestle elsewhere to minimize opposition). Those opponents “won” that appeal because a truck loading station doesn’t belong in a residentially zoned area, and further, that victory didn’t somehow “trigger” a string of appeals – Nestle/Poland Springs filed a lawsuit and four subsequent appeals (the fourth is being heard right now).

And yes, Nestle has lost every one.

If anyone wishes to see YouTube video of Nestle/Poland Spring’s lawyers arguing before the Maine Supreme Court that their right to grow market share superceded the town’s right of local control, then simply go here.

Finally, Mr. Dubois, as for your statement that: “The matter is now pending in the Maine Law Court and everyone is hoping that the Court’s decision will put this matter to rest.”

This could have been put to rest a long time ago if Nestle hadn’t tried bully the town of Fryeburg through legal means, and yet you act as if your multinational corporation somehow has no choice in the matter.

This could all end right now, Mr. Dubois – if only Nestle/Poland Spring would drop its lawsuit. Nobody’s forcing your multinational to continue its lawsuit, and what’s clear is that Nestle is willing to use extraordinary legal means to deny Fryeburg the right to say “no” to a truck loading station in residentially zoned areas.

If anyone has anything to add to Mr. Dubois’ perspective, feel free to visit Seavey’s blog, read the string of comments, and leave one of your own (respectful) comment.

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After Passing Water Extraction Moratorium, Wells (Maine) Decides What’s Next

In yet another chapter of small-town Maine’s battle to retain local control of water supplies in the face of Nestle/Poland Spring’s expansion plans, voters in Wells (ME) recently passed a water extraction moratorium.

Designed to give the town breathing room to craft a local water extraction ordinance, the moratorium is temporary, and the hard work of crafting an ordinance is just beginning

In an email conservation between StopNestleWaters.org and Ms. El-Shafei of Save Our Water (an activist leading the charge for an ordinance), she said:

“We realize that this victory will be short-lived unless we can write an ordinance which will protect our groundwater from corporate exploitation, a rights-based ordinance, as opposed to a regulatory ordinance.

Simultaneously, we will be educating the community about just what a rights-based ordinance is and try to persuade them that this is the only way to go. That will not be an easy task as this is a conservative community. But people only have to look at the case of Fryeburg, Maine where citizens have been entangled in a costly legal battle for years, as the regulatory laws favor corporate rights over the rights of the citizens.”

In a less-pressured environment, a moratorium wouldn’t even be necessary, though it does reveal a certain mistrust of Nestle/Poland Spring among Mainers, who have witnessed a few too many lawsuits and “negotiated-in-secret” surprises.

Now, a process for developing that moratorium is becoming clear::

The process appears most likely to fall to a newly minted committee in Wells. Known as the Ordinance Review Committee, it was created in the fall to take a critical look at all of the town’s ordinances.

Officials indicate the committee will be charged with coming up with a draft water extraction ordinance, although the Board of Selectmen has not made a formal decision on the matter.

“We established the new committee,” said Joan Mooney, selectmen chairwoman. “They have a long list of ordinances they need to get done. (The water extraction ordinance) will be one of their priorities.”

Mooney said she expected the committee would look at samples of ordinances that other towns have already crafted as a basis for their work. “Then they’ll work with selectmen to get an ordinance written to take to the public.”

Good luck to the citizens of Wells, who clearly voted to retain control of their water and economy.

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Nestle Running Another Misleading Ad in Denmark Paper

In an attempt to protect its up-for-reneweal well permit in Denmark, Maine (the town next to Fryeburg and the source of the water Nestles wants to pump to a Fryeburg loading station), Nestle/Poland Spring have taken to running regular advertising, a close look at which is illuminating:

Note the use of “local” throughout the ad. It’s a recurring theme with Poland Springs: “We’re a Maine company” or “we’re a local company” messages abound, ignoring the fact that Nestle is the world’s largest food and beverage corporation.

Make no mistake; the profits from the sale of the water extracted in Denmark don’t stay local – they flow directly to corporate headquarters, and the town’s water resource is practically given away in return for… well, not even jobs in this case (it’s a well).

Defining $26,000 as “significant” tax revenue is a stretch, even by
small town standards. In truth, wells and loading stations deliver few
benefits to local economies (unless you define truck traffic, noise and
diesel pollution as “benefits”).

Our pick for “Nestle’s Most Astonishing Doublespeak of the Day?”

“We are committed to being a good neighbor and that means contributing to local needs and respecting local control.”

Given that one town away – in Fryeburg – Nestle/Poland Spring are actively trying to usurp local control through extraordinary legal means (they’ve sued/appealed the Fryeburg Planning Commission’s “no” decision five times).

At one point they argued that their right to grow market share superseded the town’s right to say “no.”

Respecting local control?

Only when it’s Nestle pulling the strings.

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