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Residents turn out to object to water grab

Blocked from bottling Cascade Locks water thanks to a referendum passed earlier this year in Hood River County, Oregon, Nestlé has its eyes on Washington State. But so far things aren’t going to plan.

An attempt to move operations to the town of Waitsburg, WA, for instance, resulted in angry residents packing a City Council meeting to object. According to one attendee, “I went to the first meeting held by the City Council and most of the citizens were absolutely opposed to bringing Nestlé into the community,” noting that the initial contact between corporation and town was made in secret, between Nestlé, the mayor—who has since resigned—and the city administrator.

Former AfD council member Rebecca Wolfe, who has worked on fighting water grabs in Washington along with the Alliance’s Defending Water for Life campaign, passed on some pointers in an email for local activists who want to be proactive in protecting local groundwater from exploitation.

First, be aware how Nestlé Waters NA operates.  “They determine who might support their “jobs” strategy to get the city councils hooked on the idea of new business,” writes Rebecca. But many towns, usually needing jobs, “have signed contracts and then lost their water resources.” The time to intervene is before a contract or even a memorandum of understanding is signed.

So, advises Rebecca, “Go to every meeting that you can; demand transparency; insist on a delay. Ask ‘what’s the rush?’ Ask ‘how many jobs AFTER the plant is up and running?’—the processes are mostly automated now.

“Ask about the plastics. Ask about the already overfilled landfills and the Pacific Gyre that is an island in the Pacific made of plastics. Determine who on your city council will listen to the facts and not the ‘jobs’ line.”

With films like Thirst, FLOW, and others, and organizing assistance from Alliance for Democracy, Food and Water Watch, Corporate Accountability and the Center for Food Safety, local organizers shouldn’t feel as if they are going it alone. With tough local people backed up by organizers from other successful campaigns and from national groups, water bottlers have been turned back from Enumclaw, Orting, Black Diamond, Everett, and Anacortes in Washington, as well as many other towns in many other states.

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