Tag Archives: Maine

Wells Voters Approve a Six-Month Bottled Water Moratorium

The citizens of Wells, Maine approved a water extraction moratorium, buying the town the time to craft a water use ordinance. From the Seacoastonline.com site:

They also approved a six-month moratorium on large scale water extraction in Wells, culminating a citizen uprising that began last summer in opposition to the Kennebunk, Kennebunkport and Wells Water District’s negotiations with Poland Spring/Nestlé.

The water moratorium passed by a 3,773 to 1,765 margin. In an e-mail, Jamilla El Shafei, a leader with the Save Our Water group that spearheaded opposition to KKW’s involvement with Poland Spring, said the Wells vote was “an important victory and an issue which people in our area care about deeply about.”

Towns are voting in moratoriums to give them the “breathing space” to craft local water use ordinances, largely as a result of several Nestle/Poland Spring projects which didn’t appear on the public’s radar until they were almost signed.

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“Tabled” Nestle Contract Topic of Discussion Among Clinton Selectmen… Again

Though everybody said it was a dead issue, the idea of Clinton selling Wekepeke water to Nestle was raised again at the Clinton Selectmen meeting.

Like a zombie rising from the grave to eat the brains of the living, this is a bad idea that simply won’t go away:

From the Worcester Telegram & Gazette News:

The loss of $250,000 in state money to fix deteriorating earthen dams at the Clinton-owned Wekepeke Reservoir in Sterling last night prompted a discussion among selectmen of revisiting selling Wekepeke water to Nestlé Waters North America for bottling.

A contract between the town and Nestlé allowing the bottling company access to the 564-acre parcel for testing will expire in March.

The idea was initially an unpopular among Sterling residents, where the Wekepeke reservoir is located, and there are some significant legal questions about Clinton’s right to sell the water.

Some even felt the Clinton Selectmen misrepresented the extent of the negotiations with Nestle, and given all the questions and opposition, the whole project was apparently put to rest.

Still, it appears several of the selectmen don’t want to re-open the negotiation, which will hopefully (and finally) put this issue to bed:

After much opposition in Sterling and some legal questions, the town earlier this year turned down a deal with Nestlé that would have included money to repair the four dams, two of which were considered in danger of collapsing. The Wekepeke, with five reservoirs, was once Clinton’s public water supply, but has not been used since the 1960s.

Some Sterling residents have contended all along that Nestlé has not given up on buying Wekepeke water.

Selectman Anthony M. Fiorentino suggested that with the state money for dam repairs cut, the town might look again at the Nestlé proposal.

But Selectmen Mary Rose Dickhaut, Kathleen A. Sheridan, and James J. LeBlanc were against it.

“I think there are too many consequences,” Ms. Dickhaut said. “I thought we had put this to rest.”

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Nestle Critic Says Bottled Water Battle Against Nestle About Local Control

Nestle often labels critics of their bottling plants as “anti-growth” or worse – as being against a healthy alternative to sugary beverages (as if they were against water itself).

Jamilla El-Shafei of Kennebunk wrote a powerful letter to the editor of the Lewiston Sun-Journal, and we’ve excerpted part of it here (reprinted on the RedOrbit site; read the whole letter by clicking here)

Contrary to how some media and critics have portrayed the struggle of the “water justice movement,” the battle is not about restricting water for farmers, ski resorts or local breweries. The battle being fought in Maine, and played out in other parts of the country, is for local control, as opposed to corporate control of a precious resource – water.

In Maine, the huge Swiss conglomerate, Nestle, masquerades as a friendly local company. They seek out rural areas of the state, small communities with limited government, and attempt to rush them into a half-century long, one-sided, inescapable contract backed by international trade and investment agreements such as GAT and NAFTA.

On several occasions, we’ve pointed out how media let Nestle – the world’s largest food and beverage company – hide behind the Poland Spring name.

As El-Shafei said later in her editorial, “Present laws in the state of Maine don’t offer enough protection, so Mainers are taking matters into their own hands and are trying to pass local ordinances…”

To Nestle, that’s the anti-corporate sentiment of “outsiders.” To us, Mainers making choices is called democracy.

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Poland Spring Threatens to “Leave Maine” If Pesky Citizens Don’t Stop Practicing Democracy

As I noted on the Trout Underground blog, Nestle is staggering a little under the weight of its recent legal setbacks and rural-town rejections.

In Maine, they’ve been handed their walking papers by several towns, and continue to sue (and lose) legal attempts to force a water-taking station on the citizens of Fryeburg.

Now – like a child used to always getting their own way – their Maine brand Poland Spring is threatening to pick up their toys and play elsewhere:

(via the Portland Press Herald site) Several municipalities across southern Maine have begun to take steps in opposition to bottled water, either by proposing moratoriums or passing proclamations criticizing it as environmentally harmful.

This opposition to an industry long associated with good health and purity has surprised officials at Maine’s big bottled water player, Poland Spring, which has responded by increasing its public-relations efforts and saying it might have to leave the state to develop new water sources.

“We don’t want to do that, but we may be forced to,” said Poland Spring Natural Resource Director Mark Dubois, who handles site development out of the company’s headquarters in Poland Spring. “We’re going to go where we can do business. We’re going to go where people look at facts, not emotions.”

Let’s look at a few “facts” (instead of playing on emotions, like the kind stirred up by threats to leave):

  • Nestle/Poland Spring has repeatedly sued the Fryeburg in an attempt to force a pumping station on the town – despite a firm “no” from the citizenry (Could this be a reason other towns are reluctant to deal with Nestle?)
  • Some Mainers are growing very, very concerned about the mountains of plastic waste Nestle puts in the state’s landfills every day.
  • Citizens are wondering about the long-term affects of pumping massive amounts of water from aquifers – especially in the face of climate change
  • Citizens are questioning why Nestle is allowed to pump local water for fractions of a penny per gallon, then sell it at a huge profit – which goes directly to Switzerland

Blaming Outside Agitators

The most unappealing aspect of Nestle’s response to losing (they’re not used to that) is their contention they’re the innocent victims of out-of-state agitators, as evidenced by this quote from Mark Dubois:

Much of the opposition, he said, is coming from organizations from out of state that are concerned about global water privatization or use and sale of water in arid or dry climates that have scarce renewable water supplies.

If you doubted – even for a second – that Nestle regularly huddles with its PR/spin specialists, then the above statement should dispel those doubts.

It’s classic fear mongering, and lest we get labeled an “outside agitator” by Mr. Dubois, I’d like to point out that Nestle – who owns Poland Spring – is the world’s largest food and beverage company, who just happens to be based in Switzerland.

Meanwhile, the opposition groups represented in the story are all from Maine.

Who, exactly, is the outside source of all the problems?

Is Poland Spring Really Leaving Maine?

Next time Dubois threatens to leave Maine, perhaps someone could ask him this simple question:

“And go where?”

The backlash against bottled water isn’t limited to a few small pockets in Maine; it’s a national issue. Citizens are asking questions about bottled water (and its sizable waste stream).

It isn’t “hysteria” as Nestle labeled it; Maine’s citizens are asking questions, and why, exactly is Nestle opposed to that practice? (Hint: it’s not good for their bottom line.)

We’ve seen Nestle’s heavy-handed responses to towns that ask for a fair rate for their water, or those that simply say no to a water taking station.

Now we’re witness to another heavy-handed attempt at manipulation:

“We have a huge investment in Maine,” Dubois said. “We’re not leaving anytime tomorrow, but we have to fish or cut bait by the end of next year. You have to start making decisions.”

While Dubois later uses the words “kicked out” to describe Nestle’s treatment, the three towns in York County voting on the issue are simply for temporary moratoriums so the towns can explore their options.

Activist Emily Posner said:

“A moratorium isn’t necessarily for or against anything,” she said. “It gives folks the breathing room to have that discussion, as opposed to feeling rushed or uninformed. That’s where people were in June, when we saw such an uproar.

“If a community decides they want to sell their water, then that’s their decision,” she said.

That Nestle considers this eruption of the democratic process a sign of an intolerable business climate says more about their business practices than it does about the citizens of Maine.

I’m certain they’d prefer to make sweetheart deals behind closed doors – and out of the public spotlight – but the political process isn’t actually supposed to work that way.

As those flaming socialists at Businessweek said:

Time was when multinationals could arrive in economically depressed communities and pretty much have their way. But in the age of hyper connectedness, residents in McClould were able to turn their issue into an international sensation. Now Nestle has capitulated. The management lesson: no company can afford to go forward with projects like these without engaging ALL stakeholders, not just supporters. Yes, this is David versus Goliath. But the Davids now have megaphones.

Can Nestle stop strong-arming citizens – and start playing nice?

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