Tag Archives: nestle bottled water

Save Our Water Sacramento Group Files Administrative Appeal Against Nestle’s Sacramento Plant

Nestle surely thought they’d snuck their Sacramento water bottling plant in through the back door (even a city memo acknowledged the company’s “penchant for secrecy”), but like so many other places, they’re now facing determined opposition.

Sadly for Nestle, the group uncovered a highly questionable permitting process, the appearance of a conflict of interest with a top mayoral advisor, and a development staff seemingly willing to keep the whole project hidden from public view.

In other words, it’s business as usual for Nestle – and at least some of Sacramento’s residents have discovered this sad fact:

Sacramento Press / Group to file Nestlé appeal

In a precursor to any potential legal action, a grassroots organization expects to take its next step in the fight against the Nestlé water-bottling plant by filing an administrative appeal with the city of Sacramento this week.

A Swiss public TV crew is coming to Sacramento Thursday to interview members of the group, Save Our Water Sacramento, which will re-screen the bottled-water documentary “Tapped” at 7 p.m. Thursday at Crest Theatre, 1013 K St.

Afterwards, group leaders will discuss plans to appeal the city’s designation of the Swiss company’s $14-million construction project as ministerial, rather than discretionary. A discretionary designation of a project that could possibly harm the environment triggers a requirement for an environmental assessment under the California Environmental Quality Act. A ministerial designation does not.

The California Environmental Quality Act also requires all administrative remedies be exhausted before a lawsuit can be filed, said Evan Tucker, a Sacramento resident who helps lead Save Our Water Sacramento.

“Those are supposed to exist as an alternative to litigation,” he said. “We can make our case to the city as to why the decision is incorrect.”

The group has been seeking an environmental analysis of the plant since at least September, Tucker said. City Councilmember Kevin McCarty asked the council last month to consider amending the city’s zoning code to immediately require special permits for water-bottling plants, but the proposal was never discussed.

Note the presence of a Swiss film crew; when a French film crew visited McCloud last year, I learned that Nestle’s reputation in Europe is less than sterling.

Surprise.

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“The public trust is washing away faster than water can flow out of one of your bottles” (Nestle Waters Accused of Poor Public Process)

Once again, Nestle Waters finds itself accused of poor public process – this time Nestle Waters of Canada is charged with hiding plans for a backup well from citizens. From the Wellington Advertiser:

The company announced its new plans for a well on Gil­mour Road at a public information session on Nov. 3 at Springfield Golf and Country Club on Gordon Street.

Yet several councillors took exception to advertising for the event, as well as letters sent to Gilmour Road residents, neither of which mentioned the plans for a secondary well. They say if that information was included, far more than a dozen people would have at­tended that meeting.

“The public trust is washing away faster than water can flow out of one of your bottles,” councillor Matthew Bul­mer said sternly. He agreed with fellow councillor Susan Fielding the ads were very “am­biguous” and said the letters to residents were even less helpful.

Letters were sent to Gil­mour Road residents the day before the meeting and neither the township nor the members of the newly established well protection committee – Bulmer, resident Dianne Paron, and Alan Dale of the Grand River Conservation Authority – were among the recipients.

“I’m concerned you’re trying to wiggle out of a very basic responsibility,” Bulmer said.

That Nestle stands accused of trying to sneak one past residents isn’t exactly news; they’ve been accused of the same thing in McCloud, Fryeburg, Sacramento, Mecosta County (MI), Florida, Wells/Kennebunk (ME), parts of Canada, and a whole host of other places.

While Nestle’s “good corporate citizen” routine is a regular part of its act, a closer look at the company’s actions belies the claim.

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Christian Science Monitor Explores Nestle Issue in Salida (CO), Nestle Can’t Be Happy

While Nestle Waters of North America’s water extraction operation in Chaffee County, CO may have received a go-ahead from the county (despite the fact Nestle’s application didn’t meet the criteria), citizens are not happy, and the story drew the attention of the Christian Science Monitor, which included this passage:

For the better part of this year, Salida – population 5,400 – has also been the setting for a 21st century kind of battle – over water.

Here and there in windows and entryways are signs reading “Stop Nestlé” or “Nest-Leave.” They refer to a proposed project by Nestlé Waters North America, which hopes to pump water from a spring a half-hour north of here and sell it under its Arrowhead label.

Citing myriad concerns, a group of residents has objected vigorously. They worry about impacts to the watershed and to nearby wetlands. They say that climate change, predicted to further dry Colorado and the Southwest, warrants a precautionary approach to all things water-related. And, pointing to fights other communities have had with the company, they say they simply don’t want Nestlé as a neighbor.

None of the above is news to StopNestleWaters readers, and the response from Nestle’s operative is also predictable; opponents are “emotional” and Nestle’s only a target because they’re big.

This, of course, ignores the numerous conflicts Nestle’s incited in other rural areas, and it’s a shame the article itself doesn’t completely explore the roots of citizen dissatisfaction with Nestle.

Still, attention from national and international media (like the famous BusinessWeek article on Nestle’s battle in McCloud) are the very thing that Nestle would like to avoid. After all, the company is one the most-boycotted corporations on the planet, and they’re still facing an international baby formula boycott for their predatory tactics aimed at third world mothers.

National media attention they don’t need – even that which uncritically accepts the statements of their spokespeople.

Nestle Greases Sacramento Skids: Hires Top Mayoral Advisor

In yet another example of Nestle’s penchant for moving quietly into town and recruiting advocates (long before the public’s aware of anything), the company has apparently – in a fairly naked display of influence buying – hired one of the Sacramento Mayor’s top advisors (found in the Chico News & Review):

Michelle Smira, one of Kevin Johnson’s top volunteer advisors, is leaving city hall, and going to work as a consultant for Nestle.

Smira gave her resignation last week, on October 22, and you can read her resignation letter below.

She told SN&R that she’s giving up her role as an official volunteer advisor to the mayor in order to work on Johnson’s strong mayor initiative. She also said that she was not leaving her City Hall role because of any legal conflict of interest, but because she would not otherwise have time to run her public relations business, MMS Strategies.

It just happens that MMS was hired, over the weekend, by Nestle Waters, to help win hearts and minds, and building permits, for its controversial water bottling plant in South Sacramento.

With the Sacramento mayor being one of the biggest boosters of the Nestle project – apparently willing to trade unlimited amounts of water for a handful of jobs (many of which are going to people outside of Sacramento) – it’s clear that Nestle knows whose skids need to be greased (they certainly did in McCloud & they’re certainly doing it right now in Fryeburg).

via Sacramento News & Review > Blogs > SNOG > Revolving door: One of the Mayor’s top advisors goes to work for Nestle > October 28, 2009.

Nestle “Penchant For Secrecy” Questioned By Sacramento Residents

Nestle’s somewhat sorry reputation is dogging it wherever it goes – resulting in what a Sacramento economic development official called “a penchant for secrecy.”

This quote from a story in the Sacramento Bee nicely sums up a key part of the Nestle playbook:

In one e-mail in May, city Economic Development Manager James Rinehart refers to the company’s “penchant for secrecy.” In another, shortly after the signing of the lease in July, Rinehart wrote that the company still didn’t want its name revealed because it was “working on a press release that takes into account that there are some people opposed to bottled water firms.”

First, let’s be clear: it’s not simply bottled water that’s drawing the ire of activists; it’s Nestle’s predatory behavior elsewhere that is creating across-the-board opposition to the company.

Nestle’s “penchant for secrecy” is a direct result of the company’s “penchant” for doing the wrong thing (whether that’s suing a tiny town, or fighting to keep pumping water even after it’s clear they’re damaging the watershed, or attempting to subpoena the private financial records of opponents, or…)

That Nestle fought so hard to keep their project a secret isn’t a surprise – they’ve followed that practice from the very beginning, and if there’s any justice in the universe, they’re suffering the consequences of their prior actions.

After all, they have nothing to hide beyond that which they’ve done in the past…

Can Cascade Locks, Sacramento Trust Nestle’s Job Projections?

Nestle’s announcement that it was leaving McCloud wasn’t wholly unexpected, but in many ways, it’s still difficult to entirely believe the project is dead.

Nestle has chosen to continue its belated flow studies, and the MCSD was choosing a water committee to study the issue (some charge the committee was being stacked with pro-Nestle members).

And while it’s tempting to credit Nestle’s egress entirely to local activists (Concerned Citizens, McCloud Watershed Council, Protect Our Waters and CalTrout chief among them), the market clearly played a strong hand.

After all, Nestle’s bottled water revenues were down 3% the first half of this year, and it’s clear their “premium” spring water brands took a much bigger hit in favor of their tap-water derived, less-expensive Pure Life brand.

With fuel costs running far higher than when the McCloud project was first conceived, and demand shifting to the “value” priced segment of the market, Nestle’s relocation to Sacramento makes a certain sense – as does their interest in building more, smaller plants.

Which raises the obvious question; had Nestle’s original (and astonishingly lopsided) contract with the MCSD been allowed to stand as negotiated, how many of Nestle’s promised jobs would still be extant in the town of McCloud?

On StopNestleWaters.org, we’ve long questioned Nestle’s promises of jobs to communities; the only real data we’ve seen published suggests the promises aren’t always real.

Nestle may not want to admit it, but they can’t have it both ways; if market conditions truly forced the move to a smaller, differently configured production facility in Sacramento, then it’s not hard to extrapolate to a present where McCloud would have been repayed for its water with an even fewer jobs than promised (many of those jobs of the sub-living wage variety).

It’s entirely likely a Nestle factory in McCloud would be running at a fraction of its built-out capacity – and McCloud would be experiencing yet another resource-extraction related economic bust.

Should the bottled water market continue to nosedive, what of the jobs Nestle dangles in front of other communities?

After all, Cascade Locks seems to believe the jobs provided by the company will save their town – and Sacramento seems willing to give up unlimited municipal water in return for only 40-60 jobs.

But what if those jobs are illusory, especially after three more years of a declining bottled water market?

What Nestle Doesn’t Want You to Know About Their Sacramento Water Bottling Plant (From SaveOurWaterSacramento.org)

What Nestle doesn’t want you to know about its plans to open a water bottling plant in Sacramento

* Nestlé and the City of Sacramento worked hard to quietly fast-track this project so Nestlé could open its South Sacramento bottling plant by January 2010. The project was only announced in a brief back page article in the Sacramento Bee at the end of July.

* While Sacramento residents are required to abide by city-imposed water restrictions, Nestlé would be able to siphon water from our municipal water supply 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. According to one staff member at the Economic Development Department, the only limit on the amount of water Nestlé can pump is the size of their pipes.

* Nestlé claims the Sacramento plant would be a “micro-bottling plant,” bottling only 50 million gallons of water per year. However, according to the Department of Utilities, the estimated water usage is 215 thousand – 320 thousand gallons of water per day (78 – 116 millions per year). This would make Nestlé one of the top ten water users in Sacramento at a time when we are in our third consecutive year of a drought.

* According to Nestlé, approximately 30 million gallons of water would come from Sacramento’s municipal water system and 20 million would be trucked to the plant from “private springs.” City staff have refused to answer questions about the springs and Nestlé has provided no information about their location, other than telling the Sacramento News & Review that they are somewhere in the Sierra Nevada foothills.

* Bottling 50 million gallons of water a year would create 800 million water bottles annually. It takes over 400,000 barrels of oil to produce that much plastic. Only 14% of plastic bottles get recycled – the rest end up not only in our landfills, but also in our forests, streams, and oceans.

* The diesel fuel required to truck 20 million gallons of water from the “nearby springs” to Sacramento and 800 million bottles across the state is enormous. Diesel truck emissions contain carbon dioxide and diesel soot, which both contribute to global warming. Diesel exhaust also contributes to air contamination, which is known to cause cancer and other health problems.

* Nestlé would take our tap water and sell it back to us after marking it up over 1,000 times what they paid for it. If Nestlé is allowed to build a water bottling plant in Sacramento, they can take as much water as they want, for as long as they want, without any limits or accountability.

* Water is becoming scarcer as the population grows and the drought continues. The water in Sacramento should be for the plants, animals and humans in this region to live on, not for big companies to amass enormous wealth. If Nestlé is allowed to build this plant, we give up even more control of our water for as long as that plant exists. The City says that Nestlé has a right to move here. Shouldn’t Sacramentans have a right to a secure water supply?

via Save Our Water Sacramento

Sacramento Citizens Not Uniformly Happy About Nestle (SaveOurWaterSacramento.org)

Opposition to Nestle’s zero-public-input, no Environmental Impact Report water bottling operation in Sacramento, CA, is coming under increasing scrutiny.

First, a group has formed to ask the tough questions that apparently the city staff didn’t ask, like how does this fit into the city’s Sustainability Master Plan?

To find out more, visit SaveOurWatersSacramento.org.

Cosmo Garvin of the News & Review riffs on the project, identifying a whole host of issues:

It’s been two months since Nestlé Waters North America announced they plan to build a new bottling plant in Sacramento, where they’ll suck up millions of gallons of delicious Sacramento tap water every year, in order to sell it back to us in plastic at 1,000 times the price (see “Something in the water,” SN&R Bites, July 30).

Well, unlike some mayors that Bites knows, not everybody thinks this is such a great deal for Sacramento. Meet Kristie Harris, spokeswoman for Save Our Water, dedicated to, well, saving our water from corporate takeover. Or, barring that, she at least wants city leaders to ask some basic questions before selling out.

“Giving Nestlé access to unlimited amounts of our water in the third year of a drought is completely unacceptable. There’s been no public forum on this, no environmental impact report, no critical analysis at all.”

via SN&R > Columns > Bites > Going against the flow > 09.24.09.

Nestle’s Chaffee County Water Extraction Project Represents Bad Public Process

Everywhere Nestle’s water bottling operations go, bad public process seems to follow – as evidenced by this brilliant summation of the damaged approval process just concluded in Chaffee County, CO (found in the Salida Citizen news site, written by Lee Hart).

This excerpt from her lengthy post details the travails of citizens who waited hours to speak while Nestle received preferential treatment, broken promises, and a willingness to accept the unwritten promises of a multinational with a demonstrated inability to keep its good neighbor promises:

Over nine months of public hearings, hundreds of citizens passionately voiced their unambiguous opposition to Nestle. This, in the face of a hearing format that seemed biased in favor of giving Nestle every courtesy and consideration while on more than a few occasions showing visible irritation at testimony by local residents. In packed meeting rooms in Buena Vista and Salida, taxpaying voters waited patiently through inhumanely long meetings for their turn to speak out.

The commissioners allowed Nestle to run beyond their allotted agenda time by – on some nights – hours, yet when citizens went a few seconds over their 3-minute allotment of time at the microphone, Commission Chair Holman threatened to forcibly remove the speakers. The bias was apparent again today when in the waning moments before they unanimously agreed to approve Nestle, the commissioners haggled over language pertaining to a Nestle-funded community endowment.

In refusing the quantify – at all – Nestle’s annual programmatic contributions to the fund, the commissioners left it to Nestle – rather than the community – to define the dollar amount of philanthropic giving that constitutes being a “good neighbor.”

Face to face with a cadre of Nestle lawyers and high-priced experts, campaign promises by Giese and Holman, made less than a year ago, melted away as quickly as butter in August. Holman pledged that on his watch, no more water would leave this valley. How then could he sign a resolution permitting 65 million gallons to be sucked and trucked beyond county lines?

Giese famously said that green is the color of the future of this valley. How could Giese possibly interpret as good for green all the warnings thrown up by the county’s own consultants and referral agencies warning that Nestle could have negative impacts to surface water quantity and quality, groundwater quantity, air quality, wetlands and the plants and critters that depend on the riparian habitat.

Public opposition to Nestle boiled down to several key themes: Incontrovertible evidence prior to their arrival in Chaffee County and even during the public hearing process made it hard to believe Nestle could, without very specific legally binding stipulations, be the “good neighbor” they purport to be; the intentionally weak and sugar-coated science Nestle presented during its testimony belies lurking danger to surface and groundwater resources as well as riparian habitat that is bad for the longterm sustainability of the environment, as well as future economic development prospects for the valley. Even the county knows this as implied in the Special Land Use Permit where the county writes “Future development outside the subject parcels may impact the quality or quantity of spring water related to the Project.”

It would be naive to think Nestle won’t assign some of its vast resources to block any future housing or commercial development upgradient of its Bighorn and Ruby Mountain springs. It’s hard to imagine any small developer or business person being able to prevail against a fight waged by the world’s largest food and beverage maker.

You can read the rest of Hart’s original post here: Nestle in Chaffee County: Goliath 1, David 0; end or extra innings?.

Bottled Water Industry Vilifying Tap Water In Attempt to Bolster Sagging Sales

“Good corporate citizen” Nestle never passes up an opportunity to spin its “good neighbor” message to the world, but according t0 a memo obtained by the UK Scotsman, Nestle’s part of a campaign attempting to vilify the quality of tap water.

The Scotsman obtained a 3-page memo written by a PR firm working for the Natural Hydration Council (the UK’s bottled water industry trade group that’s the equivalent of North America’s IBWA).

Nestle is a leading player in the group, and we’ll let the Scotsman’s reporter lay out the ugly details:

AIDES working for bottled water producers are planning to use scare tactics to protect falling sales in Scotland by attacking the quality of tap water supplied to consumers.

The tactics are outlined in a memorandum drawn up by a public relations company employed by the industry to be used in case “the media turns hostile to our cause”.

It suggests using data on contamination of public water supplies with potentially-harmful bugs, such as E Coli and cryptosporidium, to highlight the merits of drinking bottled water. Sales of bottled water have fallen nationally over the last year because of the effects of the recession on disposable incomes.

The memo, obtained by Scotland on Sunday, was written by a London PR company working for the Natural Hydration Council, an industry lobby group funded by three major bottled water companies. They include Nestlé, which markets Vittel and Perrier; Danone, which produces Volvic and Evian; and Perthshire-based Highland Spring.

The Scotsman quoted several passages in the memo which clearly indicate the PR firms plan to attack the quality of bottled water should media coverage turn “hostile” – but later the writer of the memo contradicts what he wrote.

It was sent to an Edinburgh-based communications company, 3X1 – which is paid by the industry to lobby on its behalf – to be deployed on the same day as the annual publication of Scotland’s Drinking Water Quality Regulator, last Thursday.

The regulator’s report concluded that the quality of Scottish drinking water remains “extremely high” with 99.75 per cent of supplies meeting safety standards. It adds that two tap samples in Scotland contained E Coli in 2008, an improvement on 2007 when five failures were recorded.

[ed: emphasis mine] This prompted Julie McGarvey, of 3X1 to write to her colleague James Laird, at Epicurus Communications in London: “Clock the E Coli data. Good to keep up our sleeve.”

Laird wrote back that he had already written a memo, based on an analysis of reports by the Drinking Water Inspectorate in England, that had “observations” that might be useful “should the media turn hostile towards our cause.”

He adds that the report offers “potential sound-bite notes that could be used for NHC un-attributable media briefings.” “Unattributable briefings” is lobby group shorthand for information passed to journalists on condition they do not name their source.

After reading the last paragraph above, now read the astonishing denial by the consultant who wrote the quoted memo:

Asked whether the examples of problems in the public water supply would be communicated to journalists, he replied: “Absolutely not. The NHC supports the consumption of all water, whether bottled or tap. There is no intent, desire or mandate to criticise tap water on behalf of the NHC.”

One word leaps to mind.

Sleazy.

Earlier, we chronicled the attacks launched on tap water quality by none other than Nestle Waters CEO Kim Jeffries and another UK bottler.

And even journalist and author Elizabeth Royte thinks its time to end the charade:

The bottled water industry continues to claim it competes not with tap water but with high-calorie and other processed drinks. The argument is getting a little tired.

And yes, one reason industries form trade groups like the Natural Hydration Council or North America’s International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) is so water bottlers don’t have to get their hands dirty.

They simply pay others to do their dirty work for them.

We’ve noted in the past that the bottled water industry – facing tough economic conditions and opposition on environmental grounds – will increasingly turn to FUD tactics (Fearn, Uncertainty, Doubt) to drive sales.

In this case, the evidence fell into the right hands, but how much of this kind of thing is currently being planned behind closed doors elsewhere?

Why else would the IBWA hire former Tobacco Institute spokesperson Tom Lauria?

In the light of stories like this, it’s clear.

The real “product” of the Tobacco Institute was “doubt” – an ongoing effort to undermine good science detailing the hazards of smoking, confusing consumers and providing cover for the industry.

Expect to see more “doubt” sown by the bottled water industry about the quality of the water that comes out of your tap.

And when you do, recognize it for what it is.

via Bottled water firms turn to scare tactics – Scotsman.com News.