Tag Archives: water extraction ordinance

Group Forms to Protect Wells (ME) Water From Nestle/Poland Springs

In response to Nestle/Poland Spring’s interest in water extraction projects in Wells, Maine, a new advocacy group has formed (which won’t make Nestle/Poland Spring very happy).

We wish the members of Protect Wells Water good luck in their fight – which currently involves a fight over a relatively Nestle-friendly water extraction ordinance.

The battle for Wells’ water has been a contentious one, and right now, this group is fighting a battle against the significant resources of Nestle. Nestle’s willingness to spend and mislead voters resulted in the voting down of a rights-based ordinance, and now PWW is fighting an extraction ordinance whose significant shortcomings are detailed here.

I registered for their email list; anyone with a few spare minutes might want to read about their plight on their Web site.

Second Maine Town Enacts Water Extraction Ordinance,

A second Maine town has enacted a rights-based water extraction ordinance (Shapleigh was the first); now Newfield passed a ban on a vote of 228 to 146.

From WCSH6.com – Newfield Passes Ban On Large Scale Water Extraction

NEWFIELD (NEWS CENTER) — The town of Newfield is now the second in Maine to ban large-scale water extraction.

Saturday’s vote was 228 in favor of the new ordinance and 146 against. The vote is a reaction to interest from Poland Spring Water and its parent company, Nestle, in pumping water from an aquifer shared by Newfield and Shapleigh.

Shapleigh voted for the same ban on water extraction two weeks ago. However, there is some concern that that ordinance could be overturned in court. As a result, townspeople voted on a different ordinance at town meeting Saturday that would lay out what a water company would have to do to be able to extract water from the aquifer.

While Shapleigh’s Selectmen are making noises about the legality of the Shapleigh ordinance, the real questions revolve around Nestle/Poland Spring’s willingness to step into yet another damaging legal fight (one wonders what their five suits against Fryeburg have cost their already-tarnished reputation).

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Letter From Shapleigh Residents (Proud to Live In Shapleigh)

This from the Defending Water in Maine “Water in the News” blog – a letter from a Shapleigh resident about the just-passed rights-based ordinance. Kinda makes you smile.

Proud to live in Shapleigh (letter)

We are so proud to be counted among Shapleigh’s Citizens, and especially among those voters that were at the Citizen’s Town Meeting this past Saturday, February 28, 2009.

HOORAY & KUDOS to all of us who voted to keep our water in our own hands. Hooray & kudos also to all who voted their conscience. It just proves that we now live in a town which gives every citizen the right to vote on issues that will impact our way of life. We’re not divided at all. We simply utilize our right to vote!

We’ve had a lot of precipitation lately, but that won’t always be the case. We heard recently that just before the Fire of 1947, there was an abundance of rain. Then quite suddenly a very dry period. People were actually driven to the ocean, we are told, to stand there in the water until the fire was extinguished. California is now experiencing a tremendous drought. One never knows when water will be badly needed here in York County where we are so blessed with water.

Edward Murphy of the Portland Press Herald wrote an article for the March 1, 2009, Sunday Telegram about our vote to ban large scale water extraction. It was a comment from Bill Hayes’, in this article, that took us by surprise. At all of the Public Hearings, questions were asked of him and the Planning Board about what Poland Springs was bringing to the table regarding monies they would spend for our water. Always the response was no particular water extractor had expressed an interest or applied for a permit, and that even if one had, discussion of money would not take place until well into the exploratory process.

Now that all is said and done, and large scale water extractors are banned from mining our water, Mr. Hayes says that talks with the water bottler never got to the point where a dollar figure was discussed, but the amount “would have been significant.” Now wait a minute – talks with a water bottler? Weren’t we told none had applied for a permit? Wait another minute – didn’t get to the point of discussing dollars? How then would Mr. Hayes know it “would have been significant.”? Not that it would have mattered to Shapleigh’s citizens – at least most of them. We still want to keep our water within our control.

We the voters of Shapleigh made ourselves clear. We do not want our water extracted and sold. We’re a caring community. As far as we know, we would gladly give water to anyone who is thirsty.

Sat., March 14, 10:00 AM, Shapleigh Memorial School, is the annual Shapleigh Town Meeting. Part of that Warrant will be to enact the Town of Shapleigh Ordinance Governing the Large-Scale Pumping or Extraction of Groundwater, Spring Water and/or Water from Aquifers within the Municipality of Shapleigh, Maine – An addition to Town of Shapleigh Ordinances Section 105 -. We need to, once again go to the school and vote “NO” on this Regulatory Ordinance. We already stated with our vote on Shapleigh Water Rights & Local Self-Government Ordinance that we don’t want our water mined and sold out of our town.

And also on Sat., March 14, 1:00 PM, Newfield has the opportunity to be part of this historical moment and enact Newfield’s Water Rights & Local Self-Government Ordinance. We share an aquifer, and we’d like to share the historical glory. Abraham Lincoln stated it grandly: “Right Makes Might!” GO FOR IT!

Marty & Barbara Britten
No. Shapleigh, Maine

Nestle’s Legal Assault Pays Off: “The fear is that other towns have been taken to court by Nestle…”

Nestle’s long had a reputation for using its powerful legal resources to bend small rural towns to its will.

When they lose, they simply revamp their arguments and come back for another round, and if you think that’s simply stubborness, consider this water-rights ordinance exchange from Maine’s Seacoastonline.com site:

Joan Mooney, Chairwoman of the Board of Selectmen and a supporter of prohibiting extraction, said the issue is having an ordinance that could stand up to legal scrutiny.

“The fear is that other towns have been taken to court by Nestlé (parent company of Poland Spring) because their laws have holes in them,” Mooney said. “The Ordinance Review Committee can write a regulatory one or one that’s rights-based. The latter doesn’t have any holes in it.”

Town Planner Mike Huston raised questions about the rights-based approach, however.

“When people have talked about this, it’s like the ultimate thing that keeps you out of court and prevents a company from running roughshod over the town,” he said. “But if I’m a large company and I want water and you put roadblocks in my way, I’m going to court.

Apprently, Nestle’s legal bullying is working; communities are discussing ordinances based not on what they want or how to retain local control, but from the perspective of what might and might not land them in legal hot water with Nestle Waters of North America.

If you’re a multinational whose concern for local communities extends only as far as their contribution to your bottom line, then using extraordinary legal means to make sure locals are too fearful to challenge you is probably an effective tactic (though a morally bankrupt one).

Read the entire story here: Restrictions on water extraction debated in Wells.

Nestle-Connected Consultant Writing “Nestle Friendly” Water Ordinance in Shapleigh

Nestle’s record of interfering in small town politics is well known, and we’re seeing it yet again in Shapleigh, where the voter-mandated water extraction ordinance – clearly intended to limit the impact of extraction on the town – is being written by a consultant that Nestle referred to the Board of Selectman.

From the Water in the News blog:

The last draft made available for review, did not have any language limiting the amount of water allowed to be extracted or any hours of operation which have been asked for repeatedly by citizens at past hearings. A new addition to the ordinance is allowing existing water extraction activities to continue for three years before applying for a permit. I sure hope this is not what it sounds like. Remember the 16 borewells in Vernon Walker Game Management Area? Guess we will need to ask what this means for those well heads.

Mr. Tewhey has been hired by the Shapleigh Selectpeople to write the towns Large Scale Water Ordinance which in its current state is very biased in Nestle Corporation’s favor. Mr. Tewey was referred to the selectmen by Nestle.

Who’s ordinance is this? Nestlé’s or Shapleigh’s?

It’s vintage Nestle. They’re practiced at interfering in small town politics, and repeatedly refer consultants with strong connections to the water bottling giant.

That citizen concerns aren’t met, but Nestle’s are – a powerful reason why small towns can’t trust the food & beverage giant.

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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An Open Letter About Denmark’s Nestle/Poland Spring Hearing (And Some Good Ideas)

This was forwarded to StopNestleWaters.org from a Fryebrug resident (city next to Denmark), and touches on a recurring theme: how do small towns write ordinances capable of protecting themselves from extractive industries like Nestle/Poland Spring.

It asks tough questions that every town should answer when they’re being courted by Nestle/Poland Spring.


This is an open letter to all the citizens of Denmark who will be attending the “Open Town Meeting” on November 22nd at town hall.

The purpose of this meeting is for Poland Spring/Nestle to gain the approval for the renewal of their “Permit Application for Water Extraction” and to amend this permit to include an additional borehole and well house. There are many concerns and questions about this permit renewal and our current water ordinance. Since our ordinance is a work in progress, we feel that it would be a great opportunity to share with you some thoughts and ideas for improving our ordinance.

  • We need to move the authority for this ordinance and permitting process back to, our voter elected, Planning Board where it rightfully belongs. Every other town water ordinance we reviewed squarely gives responsibility to their Planning Board. We are the only town where the selectmen have taken control of the ordinance and water permitting application process.
  • We need to add language to address and protect the environmental issues and ecological systems. Our current ordinance addresses neither of these.
  • We need to have a bond or other security posted prior to approval of a water extraction permit, so residents can know the amount of coverage.
  • Alert and Action levels need to be clearly defined and set prior to approval of any permit. Exactly what water levels indicate an adverse effect?
  • If we hit a pre-determined Action level and the applicant refuses to stop extracting water, what is our recourse? Should we be assessing a monetary penalty in our ordinance?
  • Our code enforcement officer should not need to make an appointment to visit the extraction site.
  • We need to know where the load out facility will be located prior to the renewal of the permit. Will it be in Denmark?
  • We need to have effective, strong language in our ordinance that would govern hours of operation, noise levels, and glare from lights, increased traffic, and similar potential for nuisance. Our ordinance currently says that these nuisances are unlikely, but since we don’t know where the load out facility will be located, these may be very likely.

Our town officials have developed a great ordinance. However, in three years time, things have changed. Many towns have used Denmark’s water ordinance as a starting point. They have added stronger language to their water ordinances. Since our ordinance is a work in progress, we need to make some additional changes to our ordinance as well.

Please come to the hearing Nov,22 at 9:00 am held at the Denmark Town office.

— Natural Resource Defenders