Contact: Jamilla El-Shafei,organizer for Save Our Water and The Branch Brook Aquifer Coalition (email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Contact: Jean Foss, spokesperson for Protect Wells Water and member of The Branch Brook Aquifer Coalition (email: email@example.com)
Wells voters rejected a water extraction ordinance 3,194 no to 1,420 yes.
Jamilla El-Shafei, organizer for Save Our Water, a water justice organization which includes residents from Wells, Kennebunk, Kennebunkport,Ogunquit and Biddeford, who organized the opposition along with Protect Wells Water said “In spite of the Nestle Waters Corporation spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to influence the vote in Wells, the citizens are standing up to protect their water from corporate exploitation and sending a message: No to large scale water extraction and No to Nestle!
We are hoping that the State of Maine takes notice and that our legislators put water in the public trust.”
“Presently, surface water and ground water are regulated under two different bodies of law, yet they are part of the same hydrological cycle. We need to have one law which protects our water, the state’s most precious resource and place it in the public trust.”
Jean Foss, spokesperson for Protect Wells Water said “Rejection of the Wells ordinance, question #1, makes clear that the people of Wells do not want large scale water extraction. By this decision Wells groundwater remains fully available to the homes and local businesses that depend on it. Wells voters can credit themselves for turning out in numbers to vote on a critical and confusing issue.
Future assaults on our aquifers are likely as water becomes scarce. Citizens are concerned and increasingly well informed. They rightfully demand that our laws, both state and local adequately defend people’s access to clean and abundant water.”
It’s almost as if Nestle/Poland Spring can’t quite walk the straight and narrow – even when all eyes are on them.
As a vote on Wells’ controversial water extraction ordinance nears, activists are crying foul – and alleging dirty tricks on the part of Nestle/Poland Spring.
First, Nestle printed and distributed fliers which listed incorrect poll opening and closing times.
Nestle claims an it was an innocent error, but opponents aren’t convinced – especially given Nestle’s willingness to meddle in local politics in other places (Nestle maintained they weren’t going to interfere in McCloud’s 2006 elections, but wrote a check to their candidates the day before the election).
Now, a leader in the fight to vote down the proposed Wells commercial water extraction ordinance alleges further misdeeds by Nestle/Poland Spring (in a Seacoast Online article):
I’m mad as hell,” said Jamilla El-Shafei, a water-rights activist from Kennebunk, who alleged that phone calls were made Oct. 20 to Wells residents telling them that if they wanted to reject the ordinance they should vote “yes,” when in fact a “no” vote would oppose it.
El-Shafei, who has spoken out against Poland Spring and its parent company, Nestlé Waters North America, said the alleged phone calls were outright wrong.
Some of the more than dozen people who spoke about the ordinance, reiterated that “yes” means in favor of the ordinance and “no” means against it. About 60 people attended the meeting.
In a subsequent email, she offered more detail:
Last week when some of us were canvassing the telemarketers (perhaps from Nestle) had just called folks before we came to the door. When asked about voting on the water extraction issue, when the residents said “I don’t want Poland Springs taking my water,” the telemarketers said “VOTE YES if you don’t want water extraction.”
People were really upset to learn that they were snookered, once we explained it to them. One man said “I am so mad I am going to call the papers.”
Later, she alleged intimidation on the part of a Poland Spring attorney:
On Thursday night, Save Our Water had a speaker from Hollis speak before the Terri Swier talk about them spraying chemicals from their waste water on fields in Hollis as well as other things and the next day Nestle’s Attorney Chip Ahrens from Pierce Atwood called the woman and intimidated her.
There’s no way to confirm what was said during the phone call or what Mr. Ahrens’s intentions were, but it’s clear that – as the pivotal Wells ordinance vote approaches – Nestle’s clearly concerned.
Should the ordinance – based on a Denmark ordinance that many allege was written by a Nestle-friendly consultant – go down before a vote of the citizens, a moratorium to prevent extraction would be extended.
More importantly, small towns that want nothing to do with Nestle/Poland Spring will realize they have options – and Nestle/Poland Spring can’t sue them all.
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.
While Nestle’s support at the grassroots level of most towns continues to fall, it’s clear they’re still playing the political game far better than the citizens who oppose them, as evidenced by this letter to the editor about Nestle’s gold-plated access to the in-process Wells water ordinance:
The ordinance was turned down leaving the town to now rely on a regulatory ordinance, an ordinance that will require anyone who wants to obtain more than 5,000 gallons of water on any given day to apply for a permit from the town. At the Town Meeting on the 16th, the selectmen promised that a better ordinance would be written by the people of Wells and not by outside interests. Ron Collins recently said to the editor, “the final ordinance will be ours and NOT language dictated to us by some outside group whose agenda is nothing more than to take away our rights as U.S. citizens.”
Well, I have to say I was disappointed to discover that at the May 27 Ordinance Review Committee meeting a representative and lawyer for Nestlé were present. They were provided with a copy of the regulatory ordinance before the meeting and were allowed to and encouraged by the town attorney to make provisions that they saw fit. I am asking you to consider who’s language this new ordinance is being written? Is this the voice of the town? Last time I checked Nestlé is in fact an outside group with an agenda, so why then are they writing the rules for our town. Are we to regulate them, or are they regulating us? Can we trust that this new legal document will actually control water extraction or is it merely an illusion so the town feels protected?
Nestlé, leave our water alone
To the Editor:
I write to express my concerns over legislation to allow large-scale water extraction from the Town of Wells. I and those in my neighborhood rely on our private wells for water. In the past two years I have witnessed three wells within shouting distance of my home fail, requiring well replacement, no doubt at considerable cost to the property owners.
In addition, I have learned that in the not-to-distant past, the town had requested citizens to refrain from sprinkler use due to water shortage in a dry spell. Does this sound as if we of Wells should be willing to sell our water? I think not.
It is well known that Nestlé/Poland Spring desires to contract for the right to withdraw up to 400,000 gallons of water per day for 30 years with the option to extend the contract for an additional 20 years. Does selling water seem like sound policy for our town’s future? I think not.
Recently we have had a major hotel and The Summer Village built downtown as well as an ever-increasing number of private homes being built. Should our water be reserved for our citizens present and future or for the profit of an international corporation?
My concern is the viability of my personal water source as well as that of those many, many residents who rely on well-source water. I believe that the majority of citizens of Wells are against the sale of their water and call upon those who share my concerns to let their view be known to the Wells Board of Selectmen.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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.
Rights-based water ordinances have yet to face a court challenge (and we’re expecting one at some point), but their “give the right to decide back to the people” message is certainly resonating with small town residents.
It appears that the town of Wells is set to follow the example of Shapleigh and Newfield, both of whom passed water-extraction ordinances which were aimed largely at Nestle/Poland Spring’s water extraction activities.
Supporters of a measure to prevent companies such as Poland Spring from extracting groundwater in Wells are presenting a ballot proposal to the town’s selectmen.
Organizers say they have gathered signatures from more than 800 Wells residents in support of putting the measure on the June 9 ballot.
In many small towns, elected officials have not done a good job representing the interests of townsfolk (the original Nestle contract in McCloud is a prime example), and residents simply want the right to decide for themselves.
This is not good news for Nestle/Poland Spring, who cannot be happy to see rights-based water ordinances popping up like spring daffodils.
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.
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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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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Developing new water sources for the Nestle/Poland Spring bottling operation is getting harder for the Swiss multinational, especially among the rural towns which used to be their primary target.
The selectman in Wells, Maine, have approved a water extraction moratorium for placement on the November ballot,
Resident Joe Hardy, one of the group that proposed the moratorium, said
Rachin’s changes were excellent, but disputed the notion that
extraction was adequately prohibited in town. “It allows the KKW to go
on but excludes a large outside entity like Poland Spring or Nestle,”
he said. “It’s not a permitted use but it’s not prohibited either. The
threat is very real, given the closeness with which we almost had the
contract with Nestle.”
Formerly, Nestle/Poland Spring (a venerable Maine brand bought by Nestle) encountered little opposition when trying to extract water from small, rural towns.
Things have changed dramatically in recent years, and towns are no longer so eager to give up their precious bottled water resources for a fraction of a penny per gallon and a handful of sub-living-wage jobs.
Several towns in Maine and Washington have sent Nestle packing, or – in the case of McCloud, CA – opposition to Nestle’s sweetheart deal (negotiated in secret) forced an abandonment of the original contract.
With Nestle being confronted by informed townspeople – connected to others via the Internet – will they finally have to offer towns a good deal in exchange for their water?