Nestles vs Aquifer? Not!
For those who did not see today’s paper, Nestles vs the Aquifer seems like a dead issue for now. The article in the Recorder is posted below. Nestles clearly did not want to try to jump through all the state-level hoops, particularly since there are other options that do not involve the state. Of course Nestles might be able to go to the town directly without involving the state, but I have my doubts that will happen in the near future.
I wonder if those activists who have worked to nix this thing will help us find other revenue sources?
Law puts stopper in Nestle plans; Company had considered drawing water from Montague Plains
By ARN ALBERTINI Recorder Staff
Published: Tuesday, October 16, 2007
MONTAGUE -- A state law has clogged up Nestle Waters North America’s plans to explore the Montague Plains as a potential source for it’s bottled spring water.
’It was basically a business decision,’ said Brian Flaherty, director of public affairs for Nestle, on Monday afternoon. ’It got more and more complex as we looked into it.’
Nestle draws water off state land in Maine for Poland Springs water, bringing in a revenue stream for the state and it had hoped to work out a similar arrangement with the Massachusetts Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, which owns 1,500 acres of the plains, he said.
But, the state law governing the use of land owned by the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, known as Article 97, made the process more complicated, Flaherty said.
A portion of Article 97 reads, ’Natural resource removal from DFW property will not be allowed unless said removal is clearly in the best interest of wildlife and wildlife habitat.’
The idea of drawing off spring water was new territory for the state and it was unclear whether Nestle would be allowed to take spring water from the land without a vote of the state Legislature, Flaherty said. ’It was a little bit more complex than we originally thought it would be.’
When told of Nestle’s plans to scrap its interest in the Montague Plains, Joanne Sunshower, a member of the Montague Alliance to Protect Our Water, a group that organized to raise concerns about Nestle, said, ’Wow, that’s great. I’m thrilled, completely thrilled.’
The Selectboard in Leverett, where Sunshower lives, sent a letter to the state opposing Nestle’s interest.
Although Nestle isn’t interested in the plains, the group will still be meeting because it wants to work to make the public more aware of the bottled water industry’s impact and it wants to strengthen laws that protect public water, she said. Tonight , the Montague Alliance to Protect our Water will host a forum from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Montague Grange.
On Friday, Nestle’s natural resource manager for the northeast region, Thomas Brennan, sent a letter to Wayne F. MacCallum, director of the state’s Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, letting him know Nestle was suspending its investigation of the plains.
’We think this decision was wise,’ said Robert Keough, spokesman for the state’s Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. ’Based on information presented to us, we can’t see a scenario under which this project would proceed on state conservation land.’
Having gotten permission to walk the site and do preliminary testing in July, Nestle was in the very beginning stages of assessing the water quality and volume, Flaherty said. ’Nothing in the testing pushed the decision (to stop the exploration) one way or the other.’
More definitive information would have come forward once Nestle did more long-term monitoring of quality and volume, had it chosen to continue investigating the plains, he said. ’But, we hadn’t gotten that far yet.’
Although officials had stressed that they were only in the very early stages of exploration, had Nestle decided on the Montague Plains as a source and built a local bottling plant, that plant would have employed 350 to 400, based on how many people work at other Nestle plants.
Opponents of Nestle had said that tapping into the water below the Montague Plains for bottling raises concerns about corporate control of a natural resource and has the potential to drain water sources for towns in the Pioneer Valley.
Concerns raised by citizens weren’t a factor in the decision not to continue exploring the Montague Plains, Flaherty said.
’Everything we do is out in the open. Concerns among people about how we operate is something we’ve seen in other areas of the country and something we address by being in the open as much as we possibly can.’
’The concerns are a terrific way for us to connect with the community.’
Nestle won’t draw water out of a resource if isn’t sustainable and regulations won’t allow it, he said. ’We certainly will not do something that would negatively impact that spring.’
And Nestle wouldn’t have been in control of the water.
’The control of the water would have never been out of the hands of the DFW,’ said Flaherty. ’We’re basically paying the state for the use of the resource.’
In the Northeast, Nestle Waters North America bottles water under the names Poland Springs, based in Maine, and Deer Park, based in Allentown, Pa.
Although it has suspended plans for Montague Plains, Nestle is still looking all over the Northeast for a new source of spring water. The closest site is in Clinton and Sterling, said Flaherty.
’At any different time we’re looking at a dozen different sites. It’s our goal at some point to find a resource and a community in the Northeast that would support the work we do, which is clean, light manufacturing.’
You can reach Arn Albertini at: email@example.com or (413) 772-0261 Ext. 264