Nestlé bottled-water company seeks to take more Michigan water

by Keith Matheny and Paul Egan, Detroit Free Press

Nestlé Waters North America’s plans to increase its Michigan groundwater withdrawal by more than 2 1/2 times would unravel an accord reached with environmentalists seven years ago that was aimed at protecting the water table and wildlife.

Nestlé announced a $36-million expansion at its Ice Mountain bottling operations in Stanwood, in Mecosta County, on Oct. 31. The addition of two water-bottling lines — the first to begin operation next spring; the next opening by 2018 — is expected to add 20 jobs to the plant, which employs more than 250 people.

But the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has not yet approved the company’s request to increase its groundwater withdrawals by 167% — from 150 gallons per minute to 400 gallons per minute — at White Pine Springs well No. 101 in nearby Osceola County. The DEQ has, however, recommended approval under the Michigan Safe Drinking Water Act.

Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation sued Nestlé in 2001 over the potential damage to lakes, rivers and streams that its bottled water plant’s groundwater withdrawals would cause. After years of court battles, the two sides reached a settlement agreement in 2009, reducing Nestlé’s siphoning to 218 gallons per minute from 400, with additional restrictions on spring and summer withdrawals. The litigation cost the nonprofit more than $1 million, which was covered by supporters.

Now, the proposed permit from the DEQ would take the bottled-water plant’s groundwater withdrawals back up to the level that prompted the lawsuit.

“I’m not sure if there is a reasonable amount of water that should be allowed to be taken from an aquifer,” said Jeff Ostahowski, vice president of the nonprofit Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation. “But 400 gallons per minute seems more than a bit too much.”

The controversy highlights the sometimes-contentious balance between protecting Michigan’s most important, abundant natural resource — its fresh water — and using it as an economic commodity. It’s particularly heightened after the months of fierce debate this year over a Wisconsin community, Waukesha, which lies just outside the Great Lakes Basin, being approved to use the basin for its water supply by Great Lakes Compact member states — over howls of protest from local governments throughout the Midwest.

The DEQ requires use of its Water Withdrawal Assessment Tool, an interactive, online evaluation of proposed water withdrawals in the state that looks at impacts to fish and stream flows through comparative data and modeling, prior to any proposed large-quantity water withdrawal.

“When Nestlé ran the Water Withdrawal Assessment Tool” last December, “they didn’t pass,” said Jim Milne, the shorelines unit chief in the DEQ’s Water Resources Division.

But as state regulations allow, the company then requested a site-specific review by DEQ staff. That review, which included looks at the geology in the area and Nestlé’s own compiled stream-flow information, led the DEQ to determine the increased pumping “is not likely to cause an adverse resource impact,” in January, he said, meaning it won’t impact populations of fish in the Chippewa Creek watershed, a tributary to the Muskegon River, or decrease stream flows to the point of natural resource impacts.

It’s not unprecedented for DEQ staff to override the findings of the agency’s Water Withdrawal Assessment Tool. From July 2015 to July of this year, the DEQ authorized 123 withdrawal requests rejected by the computerized modeling after site-specific reviews, Milne said.

The Stanwood plant receives its water supply “from diverse sources that we manage in a sustainable manner,” said Christopher Rieck, a spokesman for Nestlé Waters North America.

“The increase would also allow us the ability to balance the use of our water sources to ensure long-term sustainability and support future growth.”

The DEQ notified the public of its impending decision on the Nestlé permit via its biweekly environmental calendar, a little-read regulatory notices clearinghouse, and announced that public comment on Nestlé’s request would close Nov. 3, sparking outrage from many because of the short notice.

“The MDEQ’s handling of the Nestlé application is as lax as the handling of the Flint water crisis. Nothing has changed,” said Jim Olson, an environmental attorney and founder and president of the environmental nonprofit For Love of Water, or FLOW.

“Rights to public notice, public information, hearings and public participation in government decisions over water and quality of life, health — even our economy — have been diminished to the point of absurdity. MDEQ didn’t even post the underlying documents to the application summary online for interested people to review before public comment, and the notice was so hidden and late in the game that no meaningful comments can be made by Nov. 3.”

Added Ostahowski : “I think they were trying to slip it through. It’s disappointing but not uncommon.”

Responding to such criticism, the DEQ has announced it would extend the public comment period 30 days, and will make available the documents it used to recommend approval of the Nestlé application. A public hearing will also be scheduled in the area during the 30-day period, with a date and venue yet to be determined, said Carrie Monosmith, the DEQ’s Environmental Health Section Chief in its Office of Drinking Water.

One reason the Nestlé operation in Michigan has been controversial is that Deb Muchmore, a lobbyist and public relations consultant who has served as a Michigan spokeswoman for the company, is the spouse of Dennis Muchmore, who until January was chief of staff to Gov. Rick Snyder.

The Free Press reported in February that in March 2015, Dennis Muchmore proposed spending $250,000 to buy bottled water for Flint from either Nestlé or Absopure, a competitor.

“How about cutting a deal with Ice Mountain,” which is bottled by Nestlé, “or (Absopure Water board member) Bill Young and buying some water for the people for a time?” Muchmore asked in a March 3, 2015, e-mail. He added that “$250,000 buys a lot of water, and we could distribute it through the churches while we continue to make the water even safer.”

Neither deal happened, officials said.

Nestlé’s large-scale withdrawal of low-cost Great Lakes water while Flint residents have not had clean tap water to drink has not sat well with many in Michigan.

State Rep. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, said Nestlé has increased the amount of water it’s pumping over time and that he feels the company’s permit application shows the latest proposed increase would negatively impact the environment. Nestlé said its plans would only “minimally” affect the levels of nearby creeks, when it should be having no impact on surface waters, he said.

“Nestlé is essentially appropriating what is a common good for their personal corporate utility,” he said.

Given the track record of the DEQ under Snyder’s administration, it’s reasonable for people to question whether a decision will be made based on the environment and the public good, or on corporate interests, Irwin said.

“Michigan citizens need to understand that part of the legacy we have is the unusual amount of fresh water we have. It’s not a given that it’s going to be around forever. With a company like Nestlé, it appears there is no end to what they think they can sell,” Ostahowski said.

Written comments on Nestlé’s proposed increased water withdrawals can be submitted until Dec. 3 to the DEQ via e-mail at deq-eh@michigan.gov or mailed to Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Office of Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance, P.O. Box 30241, Lansing, Mich., 48909-7741.

Source: http://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/2016/11/20/nestl-bottled-water-company-seeks-take-more-michigan-water/93175144/

Timber Company Tells California Town, Go Find Your Own Water

by Thomas Fuller, The New York Times

WEED, Calif. — The water that gurgles from a spring on the edge of this Northern California logging town is so pristine that for more than a century it has been piped directly to the wooden homes spread across hills and gullies.

To the residents of Weed, which sits in the foothills of Mount Shasta, a snow-capped dormant volcano, the spring water is a blessing during a time of severe and prolonged drought.

To the lumber company that owns the land where the spring is, the water is a business opportunity.

Roseburg Forest Products, an Oregon-based company that owns the pine forest where the spring surfaces, is demanding that the city of Weed get its water elsewhere.

“The city needs to actively look for another source of water,” said Ellen Porter, the director of environmental affairs for Roseburg who led the company’s negotiations with the city. “Roseburg is not in a position to guarantee the availability of that water for a long period of time.”

For the past 50 years, the company charged the city $1 a year for use of water from the Beaughan Spring. As of July, it began charging $97,500 annually. A contract signed this year directs the city to look for alternative sources.

Roseburg has not made public what it plans to do with the water it wants to take back from the city. But it already sells water to Crystal Geyser Alpine Spring, which bottles it in Weed and ships it as far away as Japan. Crystal Geyser is looking to increase its overall supply.

Residents of Weed, including the current mayor and three former mayors, say the water was always intended for municipal and domestic use and should not be sold to the highest bidder.

“The corporate mentality is that they can make more money selling this water to Japan,” said Bob Hall, a former mayor of Weed and currently a member of the City Council. “We were hooked at the hip with this company for years,” he said of the timber company, the largest private employer in the area. “Now, they are taking advantage of people who can’t defend themselves.”

Bottled-water plants have met with resistance and in some cases protests in a number of places across California, including a Nestlé plant last year in Sacramento. In the water-rich towns in the shadow of Mount Shasta, residents have raised concerns over proposed bottling plants that they say could severely diminish local water supplies.

A measure on the ballot in the November election in Siskiyou County, where the towns are, would for the first time require that companies obtain permits to export water.

The disputes echo California’s broader water wars. Five years of drought have escalated competition among farmers, factories and residents over water use and have pitted the arid south against the more water-rich north.

“Water is money,” said David Webb, a resident of the city of Mount Shasta who follows the water disputes in the area. “If you can get it, you can make money from it.”

Bob Hall, a Weed city councilman, at one of the local springs that provide the city's water. Photo: Jim Wilson/New York Times

Bob Hall, a Weed city councilman, at one of the local springs that provide the city’s water. Photo: Jim Wilson/New York Times

The mayor of Weed, Ken Palfini, says the value of the city’s water was emphasized during a visit several weeks ago by Pierre Papillaud, the founder of the company that owns Crystal Geyser Alpine Spring. In what the mayor and another participant described as a tirade of abuse, Mr. Papillaud demanded that the city give up its spring water so that his company could have more.

“He said if he didn’t get his way, he was going to blow up the bottling plant,” Mr. Palfini said of Mr. Papillaud’s visit. “He said that twice.”

Mr. Papillaud’s son Ronan Papillaud came to Weed in mid-September to apologize for the brusque treatment and to rescind his father’s demands. But Mr. Palfini said it was a lesson on how small municipalities in the area need to protect themselves from water-hungry companies.

“They are just corporations,” Mr. Palfini said. “They are not your friend.”

Residents of Weed, which is still rebuilding after a major wildfire two years ago, say they believe that their dispute with Roseburg will end in the courts and that they have a document showing that the previous owner of Roseburg’s timber business here, International Paper, handed over water rights to the city in 1982.

But they describe a David and Goliath battle between Roseburg, a wealthy corporation capable of paying for high-powered lawyers, and a relatively poor city with just 2,700 people.

Residents in Weed followed the legal battles of Missoula, Mont., where the State Supreme Court ruled in August that the city could seize water from a private company by eminent domain to secure the municipal water supply.

The alternative to legal proceedings for now is to drill a new well at a cost of around $2 million, according to Ron Stock, the Weed city administrator.

Roseburg has suggested a site on its property, but city officials say it is potentially dangerous: The well would be located a few hundred yards from a former wood treatment facility that is contaminated with highly toxic chemicals including arsenic. The facility, which is managed by Roseburg, was fenced off in 1986 and has been declared a Superfund site.

Because of the complex hydrology of the area, including lava tubes that carry water in various directions under the mountains, the city would not know whether the water was safe until it drilled a test well, Mr. Stock said.

“The city has to be very careful,” he said. “We don’t want a Flint, Mich., situation.”

Ms. Porter, the Roseburg representative, said the proposed well site was “well outside any area of contamination.”

In an interview at the company’s timber plant outside Weed, where logs are spun and shaved into thin sheets used for plywood, Ms. Porter blamed Mr. Hall, the city councilor, and others in the city for casting Roseburg in a bad light.

“We are becoming the corporate bad guy, and that’s really unfortunate,” she said. The city already has wells that serve around half the population, she said.

Ronan Papillaud, the president of CG Roxane, which owns Crystal Geyser Alpine Spring together with a Japanese pharmaceutical company, Otsuka, was also defensive when asked about his company’s plans.

“We do not belong in this story,” Mr. Papillaud said. “We are not depriving anyone of anything.” CG Roxane has bought water from Roseburg since the late 1990s and dedicates one of its production lines in its Weed plant to bottling water bound for Japan.

Mr. Papillaud described his deal with Roseburg as a simple relationship between a buyer and seller.

“Is this blood water? Are they involved in child labor?” he asked rhetorically. “We are clients, end of story.”

Watching the water dispute warily are members of the Winnemem Wintu, a small Native American tribe that considers the slopes of Mount Shasta sacred.

According to tribal beliefs, one of the springs on the mountain is the place where animals and mankind emerged into the world. Six years ago, for the first time in the oral history of the tribe, that spring dried up, according to Luisa Navejas, a tribe member.

The water around Mount Shasta is not limitless, she said.

“This mountain is calling us now, and we need to listen,” Ms. Navejas said of the inactive volcano.

“This mountain will talk,” she said. “The time will come.”

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/02/us/california-drought-weed-mount-shasta.html?emc=eta1

Nestlé Can Keep Piping Water Out of Drought-Stricken California Despite Permit Expiring in 1988

In a major setback for environmental groups, a federal judge in California has tossed out allegations that the U.S. Forest Service allowed Nestlé’s bottled water operation to take water from the San Bernardino National Forest on a permit that expired back in 1988.

The decision regards a lawsuit filed against the Forest Service in October 2015 by the Courage Campaign Institute, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Story of Stuff Project. The groups alleged that the agency was allowing Nestlé Waters North America to pipe water from public lands on a permit that had long expired.

With the ruling, the multinational food and drink corporation can continue its use of a four-mile pipeline that siphons thousands of gallons of public water a day from the Strawberry Creek watershed and sell it back to the public as bottled water. The water is sold under the Arrowhead brand.

U.S. District Judge Jesus Bernal wrote in a Sept. 20 order that since the Forest Service received a request to renew the permit in May 1987, the effort was considered a “timely and sufficient application for renewal,” thus keeping the original permit valid.

Bernal rejected the plaintiffs’s argument that the Forest Service’s failure to act on the May 1987 request renders the permit invalid.

“Plantiffs do not identify, and the court cannot find, any authority holding that an agency’s failure to act within a reasonable time” invalidates a special use permit, Bernal wrote.

The decision was criticized by the three environmental groups that initiated the lawsuit.

“The court has just confirmed what many Americans fear, massive corporations play by a different set of rules than the rest of us,” Eddie Kurtz, executive director of Courage Campaign Institute, said in reaction to yesterday’s decision. “Nestlé has been pulling a fast one for nearly 30 years, taking a public resource, depriving plants and animals of life-sustaining water, and selling that water at an obscene profit without the right to do so, but apparently our justice system is OK with that.”

“We’re shocked by the court’s decision to let Nestlé continue its operations, and we will continue to stand with hundreds of thousands of Californians and people across the nation to take back control of this public water,” added Michael O’Heaney, executive director of the Story of Stuff Project. “This fight is far from over.”

Let’s not forget that California is experiencing its fifth year of an epic drought. The Center for Biological Diversity pointed out that in 2015 alone, Nestlé had piped away an estimated 36 million gallons of water from the forest to sell as bottled water. Nestlé pays an annual permitting fee of $524 for permission to run its pipeline.

“Reports from the end of 2015 and the summer of 2016 indicate that water levels at Strawberry Creek are at record lows, threatening local wildlife that are already dealing with the ongoing drought in Southern California,” the Center for Biological Diversity said.

“The court’s decision is disappointing, but the real tragedy lies in the fact that Strawberry Creek is drying up, dooming the plants, fish and animals that have relied on it for tens of thousands of years” said Ileene Anderson, senior scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Bottling water is not worth sacrificing Strawberry Creek, so we’re considering our options for appeal.”

Environmentalists have long decried bottled water as wasteful, expensive, unnecessary and a major source of plastic pollution.

Annie Leonard, the executive director of Greenpeace USA, argued in November: “A four-year review of the bottled water industry in the U.S. and the safety standards that govern it, including independent testing of over 1,000 bottles of water found that there is no assurance that just because water comes out of a bottle it is any cleaner or safer than water from the tap. In fact tap water is tested more frequently than bottled water.”

Nestlé Waters was not a party in the case but told EcoWatch in a prepared statement it was “pleased” with the ruling.

“The Forest Service has acknowledged that our permit is in full force and effect until the renewal process is concluded,” Christopher Rieck, spokesman for Nestlé Waters North America Inc., said. “We look forward to working in close cooperation with them to continue to manage the Arrowhead Springs in Strawberry Canyon sustainably for the long-term.”

The company added that it recognizes “the impact the drought is having across the state, and we have implemented new technologies in our California facilities that will conserve 55 million gallons of water each year.”

Nestlé carefully monitors all spring sources and manages them to ensure long-term sustainability and healthy habitats, he said.

Source: http://www.ecowatch.com/nestle-bottled-water-drought-2012310851.html

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.

Nestlé Just Gained Control Over This Town’s Water for the Next 45 Years

by Nathan Wellman (@LightningWow)

Tea Party Republican Governor Paul LePage of Maine helped Nestlé secure a contract that gives Poland Springs, a Nestlé subsidiary, permission to take the small town of Fryeburg’s groundwater for the next 25 years for their own profit. The deal could stretch to 45 years due to built-in extensions.

Today that deal was upheld by Maine’s Supreme Judicial Court, essentially cutting off activists’ last attempts to scuttle the deal.

There has never been a contract that ties up local water resources for such a long period of time in American history. Water activists worry that this could set a precedent for future corporate attempts to take water from rural towns for extended periods of time.

Nickie Sekera, the co-founder of Community Water Justice, talked to US Uncut today about the water deal.

“Contracts of this length come with an unprecedented concern in our current times,” she said. “With the changes we are witnessing in our climate, increasing global water insecurity, and industry polluting freshwater resources with little accountability… corporate control over drinking water resources for profit aligns us on a collision course with local water security.”

According to Sekera, the town’s water supplier had been able to keep Fryeburg’s government largely out of the loop during negotiations with Nestlé.

“Our local municipal water supplier for Fryeburg, Maine, is run by a private company,” Sekera said. “So it’s not run by a municipality… [so] they can engage in contracts with corporations such as Nestlé much easier. It benefits their shareholders and Nestlé because it’s not publicly run and managed, which helps them get what they want.”

Maine has what’s called “absolute dominion” laws with respect to groundwater, which, as Sekera put it, “basically equates to whoever has the biggest straw wins. So you own the property, you own all the water mining rights under your property. And it doesn’t protect us from global water predators such as Nestlé.”

The law is essentially an antiquated relic, because it does not account for underwater reservoirs being connected with each other or to surface water.

Nestlé is infamous for taking water from US communities for billions of dollars in profit and then dumping the environmental costs onto the rest of society. Environmental scientist Vandana Shiva has called its practices “the most pervasive, most severe, and most invisible dimension of the ecological devastation of the earth.”

Nestlé has previously attempted to pass similar long-term contracts in two other states, but they failed both times. “People realized what a foolish deal this was,” Sekera said. “But because they had their tentacles already so deep into our community, it was pretty ripe for this to happen.”

Before Nestlé could move forward, the water contract had to be approved by Maine’s Public Utilities Commission. All three of the commissioners deciding the case were exposed by a Portland Press Herald article as having direct ties to Nestlé.

“Every commissioner on the PUC has been touched by Nestlé,” said Fryeburg resident Scot Montgomery, who manages a local restaurant kitchen. “Everyone who’s supposed to be looking out for the ratepayers, communities, and resource seems to have this other interest.”

It took a year and a half of building public pressure, but activists eventually succeeded in forcing all of the compromised commissioners to recuse themselves from the proceedings.

Sadly, it was then up to Governor LePage, an early Trump supporter labeled by Politico as “America’s Craziest Governor,” to appoint their interim replacements. LePage has recently survived efforts from Maine legislators to impeach him for “using his power to wrongly intimidate government and nonprofit organizations, and to bend them to his will.”

“Now in reality,” Sekera said, “because everything was presented and done through the eyes of conflicted commissioners, we should’ve gotten a completely new docket on this case. But that wasn’t granted, and he appointed two other alternate commissioners who were — you know — of similar leanings to the governor.”

The LePage-selected PUC predictably ruled in favor of Nestlé. Activists were hopeful that Maine’s Supreme Court would overrule the decision, but today it was upheld, effectively ending all hopes for governmental oversight to keep Nestlé in check.

Nisha Swinton, from plaintiff organization Food & Water Watch, said this decision “paves the way for a private corporation to profit from a vital public resource for decades to come.” 

Sekera said the people of Fryeburg are “worn out” after such a long battle, alluding also to an Orwellian oppression inflicted on anybody who dared speak out against the deal.

“It’s very difficult to speak out publicly because it sometimes costs people their jobs,” she said. “Their ability to be employed with any connection to the town… because people in power who stand to benefit from this deal have ways of working things.”

Sekera declined to name specific examples for fear of exposing them to more attacks.

Moving forward, Sekera has become an elected Trustee of the Fryeburg Water District. She says communities need to “put our water under a public trust — that way our water resources can be secure for future generations. We need to figure out resource sharing moving forward.”

And don’t buy bottled water, obviously,” she added. “Buying bottled water directly contributes to the oppression of rural communities. And we’re seeing this replicated over and over again.”

In the coming weeks, Nestlé also plans to secure water sources in Oxbow Springs, Oregon, and Eldritch, Pennsylvania.

Source: http://usuncut.com/news/nestle-water-deal-fryeburg-maine/

Nestle balks at US Forest Service water withdrawal terms

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. — Nestlé is objecting to the U.S. Forest Service’s terms for issuing it a new permit to continue piping water out of a national forest, saying the agency is overstepping its authority and infringing on the company’s water rights.

Nestlé Waters North America detailed its concerns publicly for the first time in a 79-page document submitted to the Forest Service. The company, the largest producer of bottled water in the country, has long drawn water from the San Bernardino National Forest to produce Arrowhead Mountain Spring Water.

The agency in March released its proposal for granting the company a new permit to operate its wells and pipelines in the mountains near San Bernardino for five years. The Forest Service took up the issue after an investigation last year by The Desert Sun revealed that the agency has allowed Nestlé to keep using water from the national forest under a permit that lists 1988 as the expiration date.

Nestlé Waters said in a statement Friday that it’s concerned “the action proposed by the Forest Service would disrupt established water rights and the long-standing legal process of regulating water use in the State of California.”

“The proposals currently being suggested by the Forest Service would create a situation in which the federal government overrides more than a century of California law,” the company said. “This would have potentially far-reaching consequences for businesses, agencies, individuals and other water rights holders throughout the state.”

Nestlé piped 36 million gallons of water from the national forest last year to produce bottled water. That has sparked an emotional debate during the drought, with opponents arguing that taking water harms the environment and wildlife along Strawberry Creek — and that the impacts on the ecosystem need to be scientifically assessed.

Three environmental groups sued the Forest Service in October in an attempt to shut down the 4.5-mile pipeline that Nestlé uses to collect water. Opponents also submitted a petition that they said was signed by more than 280,000 people demanding the agency carry out a “thorough and unbiased” environmental review.

Water from Arrowhead Springs was first bottled for sale more than a century ago. It’s named after the famed arrowhead-shaped natural rock formation on a mountainside north of San Bernardino and the springs near it — both hot and cold. The hot springs were once the central attraction of a glamorous resort, which closed in the late 1950s and now stands vacant at the base of the San Bernardino Mountains.

The company’s water pipelines and horizontal wells on the mountainside have been authorized under various permits since 1929. Forest Service officials have said Nestlé’s 1978 permit, which was issued to predecessor Arrowhead Puritas Waters Inc., remains in effect until they decide on the renewal application.

Nestle raised its “legal concerns” in a document submitted to the Forest Service on May 2. It released the document Friday.

Nestlé took issue with a proposed management plan that would require it to modify its operations if monitoring showed the extraction of water was affecting the flow of the creek. The company said that plan, as it’s now proposed, “exceeds the Forest Service’s authority.”

The agency’s proposal “disregards the state laws that administer water rights both on and off federal land,” Nestle said in the document. It said that would “create a problematic precedent nationwide.”

Nestlé said it owns rights to collect spring water from Arrowhead Springs, and those rights are “among the most senior water rights” in California.

The company said its ownership of spring water in Strawberry Canyon “can be traced to a possessory claim to the waters” recorded in 1865 by David Noble Smith — who first built a simple “infirmary” hotel where people eased their ailments at the hot springs. Nestlé also pointed to a subsequent U.S. patent obtained by Smith and recorded in 1882. It said the water rights were upheld in court in 1931 and have not been legally challenged since.

Nestlé said the Forest Service’s proposal is a “substantial departure” from the company’s previous 10-year permits, and from its renewal request. The Forest Service has not been following its own regulations, Nestle said, arguing that under its proposal the agency would regulate the company’s “water rights by controlling its water collection.”

The Forest Service has received hundreds of letters about its proposal, including a few from the bottled water industry. The International Bottled Water Association and Nestlé competitor CG Roxane LLC, which sells Crystal Geyser Alpine Spring Water, have raised similar criticisms.

Many of the people who sent emails and letters voiced opposition to letting the company take water from public land, especially given the longstanding lack of independent studies assessing the impacts on the environment.

Bill Gates of Palm Desert called it “downright insane” for Nestlé to be allowed to reap big profits from the public’s water supply while homeowners face stiff watering restrictions and are letting their yards go brown.

Some of the people who object to the bottling operation say it’s outrageous the Forest Service doesn’t collect fees for the water itself. The agency has been charging Nestle an annual permit fee of $524 per year.

Under that longstanding arrangement, the company collects water from its pipeline in a roadside tank and transports the water in tanker trucks to a plant in Ontario, one of five Nestlé bottling plants in California.

In some of the 568 letters that have been posted so far on a Forest Service website, critics question whether the company actually holds valid water rights. Greg Ballmer, president of the Tri-County Conservation League, said an initial review of historical documents in a local archive “has failed to corroborate the validity of Nestlé’s claim to the water.” He urged the Forest Service to investigate.

Stiv Wilson, campaign director for the Story of Stuff Project, one of the three groups suing the Forest Service, said in a letter that while Nestlé claims water rights, “public records show that the Forest Service has not done its due diligence with regard to determining whether Nestlé owns a valid water right in the first place.”

The proposed permit would allow Nestlé to keep using two water collection tunnels, 10 horizontal wells, water pipelines and other infrastructure in the national forest.

In a letter on behalf of California’s State Water Resources Control Board, Senior Water Resource Control Engineer Victor Vasquez offered assistance to the Forest Service and said the “basis of right” hasn’t been clearly defined in the federal agency’s proposal. He said the national forest should require the company to “identify its basis of right, and to what extent the water being diverted is percolating groundwater, surface water subject to appropriation, or developed spring water” for each of the locations where water is collected.

Nestlé noted that the state is in charge of administering water rights, and said its rights aren’t “subject to Forest Service discretion or control.”

If the Forest Service imposes controls that infringe upon those rights, the company said, “all parties with state-based water rights will be threatened, the hierarchy of senior water rights undermined, and long-term economic expectations thrown into doubt.”

The company made clear it has legal options, saying the current proposal could hinder its ability to collect water and entitle it to seek “just compensation.”

As an alternative, Nestlé Waters proposed voluntary measures. The company said its voluntary management plan would include rigorous monitoring and its scientists would “continually address the environmental conditions around the spring sites and respond appropriately to any changes.”

The company said it hopes the government will reissue the permit in line with its comments.

John Miller, a public affairs officer with the Forest Service in San Bernardino, said it would be premature to respond.

“The Forest Service has received quite a bit of input,” Miller said in an email, “and our next step is to organize and begin evaluating the materials submitted.”

Source: http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/nation-now/2016/05/09/nestle-fights-feds-water-rights/84163260/

New Video Highlights Protection of Cascade Locks Water

This new video on the community fight to protect Cascade Locks OR water from being bottled and shipped by Nestlé needs to be watched and shared! Alliance for Democracy is an endorser of the campaign.

A ballot measure for Hood River County, in which the town of Cascade Locks is located, seeks to block the export of water by by banning any water bottling operation that produces 1,000 gallons or more a day. Nestlé expects to package 11 times that amount from Oxbow Springs in an average hour. The group Local Water Alliance is backing the measure, and you can learn more about them, and support their work, at their website.

Loophole in Water Law Opens Way for Bottling Plant

A large beverage bottling operation could receive a free pass to use all it wants of a small Northern California community’s groundwater supply, thanks to an obscure allowance in state water laws and a protective trade agreement.

Crystal Geyser has plans to launch a new beverage bottling operation in the small northern California town of Mount Shasta. In response to California’s drought, locals here cut water use by about 40 percent between 2014 and 2015, according to officials. However, an exemption in newly drafted groundwater regulations could give the giant company leeway to use unlimited water from the community’s underground supply. The company has sworn it will take an insignificant volume of water from the ground and that local wells will not be affected.

The concern among locals, however, is that there is nothing in the law that will curtail Crystal Geyser’s use. That’s because the city of Mount Shasta’s groundwater supply is considered to be a “volcanic basin,” not an “alluvial basin” – a geologic distinction that carries significant consequences under a set of new water use laws.

The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), the newly passed legislation celebrated as a potential fix to the state’s aquifer overdraft problems, only addresses alluvial basins. Alluvial basins occur mostly in low-lying valleys, where substrate like sand or gravel is saturated with large volumes of water that flows in from upslope sources. SGMA’s new regulations are based on Bulletin 118, a Department of Water Resources list that names several hundred of the state’s important groundwater sources. All are alluvial basins.

Tim Godwin, an engineering geologist with the California Department of Water Resources, says there are two basic types of groundwater sources recognized by scientists – alluvial basins in valley areas, where river sediments have accumulated for long periods of time, and aquifers in mountain regions, where the ground consists mostly of solid or fractured rock.

“[The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act] only focuses on alluvial basins with lots of groundwater production,” he says.

An alluvial basin is characterized by predictable “radial flow in permeable, porous medium,” he says, adding that this flow pattern makes managing, predicting and limiting water use relatively easy.

But groundwater in mountain areas is very different. It doesn’t move through the earth in the relatively homogeneous way that water generally seeps through the alluvial sand or gravel soils of valley regions.

“It’s very difficult to understand connectivity and flow in these basins,” he says. “So, as you start to enter into the fractured rock areas, like around Mount Shasta, you have combinations of conditions that make understanding how the groundwater behaves really challenging.”

Fractures, porous volcaniclastic rock and tubes created by lava flows all serve as conduits for water, he explains. Groundwater in areas of solid bedrock flows in even less predictable ways.

Godwin says that roughly 98 percent of the state’s groundwater use comes from alluvial aquifers, meaning few people will be affected by the exclusion of volcanic and fractured rock aquifers from SGMA.

But for Californians who depend on mountain groundwater deposits, the exemption of such basins from the widely heralded new groundwater management laws seems an egregious omission. In the Mount Shasta region, the water that flows just below the surface ultimately winds up in the Sacramento River system – an increasingly troubled ecosystem in which native species are vanishing and on which millions of people, and vast sprawls of farmland, depend.

“Leaving the Sacramento River’s source region out of SGMA is like trying to cure peripheral vascular disease without addressing the heart,” says Vicki Gold, who lives just outside of the city of Mount Shasta.

Godwin says that aquifers that won’t be covered by SGMA may still be monitored and regulated by county officials. But Gold says she and other locals don’t trust that county authorities will do so in a fair way.

Even if Siskiyou County wishes to bar Crystal Geyser from pumping the region’s groundwater, the beverage giant may have its way with local water resources through a new business-friendly trade agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The TPP has been drafted through years of negotiations between the United States and 11 nations surrounding the Pacific Rim, and it could be activated this year. The partnership will work as a boon to economic growth and will essentially allow multinational business ventures to skirt local regulations.

Since Crystal Geyser is owned by a Japanese pharmaceutical firm called Otsuka, the Mount Shasta beverage bottling project could be protected from any restrictions imposed by state or county laws.

Nancy Price, the national co-chair with the Alliance for Democracy, says the TPP will allow corporations to sue governments in a TPP-specific court if any laws infringe on the profits of foreign-owned ventures.

“What if groundwater sources are reduced or springs near Mount Shasta go dry after a really severe drought, and if the community decides that the amount of water taken for the bottling plant impacts these resources and needs to be reduced?” says Price. “The Japanese corporation that owns Crystal Geyser could sue the county by taking a case to protect their ‘investor rights’ in a secret international trade court that bypasses our U.S. court system and allows for no appeal.”

According to Gold, when Coca-Cola operated the bottling plant now being resuscitated by Crystal Geyser, local groundwater supplies dwindled.

“Wells went dry when Coca-Cola was pumping,” Gold says. “People had gravel and sand in their pipes.”

Raven Stevens, the community liaison for the Mount Shasta Gateway Neighborhood Association, moved to the area four years ago but has talked with many of her neighbors about groundwater quality and reliability in recent years. She says at least six wells within half a mile of the bottling plant went dry or almost dry between 2005 and 2009. In 2010, the beverage maker left town.

“Then everyone’s water issues went away and didn’t even return through the worst drought in history,” she says.

Stevens says that Coca-Cola representatives informed of the well issues at the time said that because only some local wells, and not all, were experiencing issues the problem must have been related to the landowners’ pipes or the wells themselves.

“But we’re in a volcanic aquifer,” Stevens says, explaining that the unpredictable movement of groundwater in such aquifers makes Coca-Cola’s straight-line conclusion much too simplistic to trust.

Greg Plucker, community development director with Siskiyou County, says no records exist of resident complaints about groundwater supplies during Coca-Cola’s use of the bottling facility. Moreover, he says a review by the Regional Water Quality Control Board in 2001 determined that extracting 450 gallons (1,700 liters) per minute from the aquifer below the plant would not negatively influence local groundwater water supplies. He says Crystal Geyser has plans to use much less than that.

Steve Burns, with the public relations firm Burson-Marsteller, which is representing Crystal Geyser, confirms this. He says the plan is to draw 80 gallons per minute – or 115,000 gallons per day – from the site’s production well and, perhaps in several years, if the project is successful, double that use. Never, he says, will water use on the Crystal Geyser site approach what Coca-Cola pumped from the ground.

Stevens believes this is misinformation. She says that an additional domestic well on the property will have the capacity to take up to 320 gallons per minute. Eventually, she warns, Crystal Geyser’s project will be pumping at least the volume of water that allegedly drained locals’ water supplies seven years ago.

“There is nothing legally stopping them from taking all the water they want,” she says.

According to Burns, the domestic well will take a fraction the water that the production well will produce. “I don’t care how much water could come out of [the domestic well],” Burns says. “How many toilets would you need to flush to even come close to matching that production level?”

Following a lawsuit filed last August by a citizens’ group demanding a thorough review of Crystal Geyser’s proposed project, the company announced it would conduct an environmental review to ensure its bottling plant does no harm to the community. The first step in that process is submitting review applications to local agencies.

At press time, Burns said the county application had been submitted months prior and another application would be turned in “any day now” to the city of Mount Shasta. He says it may take the city and the Siskiyou County Air Pollution Control District another two months to determine whether or not an environmental impact report is actually needed. An EIR, he says, could take many months more.

Plucker, with Siskiyou County, says that even though California’s incoming groundwater laws will have no effect on the volcanic basin beneath Mount Shasta, an environmental review could potentially derail or stall the project.

Stevens feels the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act will adequately serve communities in low valleys but fails communities like Mount Shasta.

“The problem is that SGMA disregards areas like the top of the Sacramento River, where we are,” she says. “It’s no wonder Crystal Geyser has left places like Calistoga and Bakersfield, because they know it will be 20 years, and maybe 40, before the state turns its eyes up here.”

Alastair Bland is a freelance writer based in San Francisco. He can be reached via Twitter at @allybland.

Source: http://www.waterdeeply.org/articles/2016/02/9564/loophole-water-law-opens-bottling-plant/

Protesters converge on Nestlé bottling plants in Sacramento and LA

The outrage over the bottling of California water by Nestlé, Walmart and other big corporations during a record drought has become viral on social media and national and international press websites over the past couple of months.

On May 20, people from across the state converged on two Nestlé bottling plants – one in Sacramento and the other in Los Angeles – demanding that the Swiss-based Nestlé corporation halt its bottling operations during the state’s record drought.

Wednesday’s protest, led by the California-based Courage Campaign, was the third in Sacramento over the past year. The first two protests were “shut downs” this March and last October organized by the Crunch Nestlé Alliance. For my report on the March protest, go to:http://www.truth-out.org/….

For over an hour Wednesday, over 50 protesters held signs and marched as they chanted, “Hey hey, ho ho, Nestlé Waters has got to go,” “Water is a human right! Don’t let Nestlé win this fight,” and “Keep our water in the ground, Nestle Waters get out of town.”

One eight-foot-long banner at the Sacramento protest read: “Nestle, 515,000 people say leave California’s precious water in the ground,” referring to the total number of signatures on the petitions.

At the protests, activists delivered the 515,000 signatures from people in California and around the country who signed onto a series of petitions to Nestlé executives, Governor Brown, the California State Water Resources Control Board,  and the U.S. Forest Service urging an immediate shutdown of Nestlé’s bottling operations across the state.

The petitions were circulated by Courage Campaign, SumOfUs.org, CREDO, Corporate Accountability International, Avaaz, Food & Water Watch, Care2, Change.org and Daily Kos.

In Sacramento, local activists and residents joined residents from San Francisco and Oakland who took buses to protest outside Nestlé’s bottling plant at 8670 Younger Creek Drive. View photos from the Sacramento protest here: https://www.flickr.com/… in California.

Jessica Lopez, the Chair of the Concow Maidu Tribe, participated in the protest with her daughter, Salvina Chinook.

“I stand here in solidarity with everybody here demanding the protection of our water rights,” said Chair Lopez. “Nestle needs to stop bottling water during this drought. Why have they obtained their current permits to pump city water?”

Tim Molina, Strategic Campaign Organizer for the California-based Courage Campaign, who spoke at the Sacramento event, said to the crowd, “Today we are saying enough is enough. With people across California doing their part to conserve water — it’s time that Nestlé did the right thing and put people over profits –  by immediately halting their water bottling operations across the State.”

“If Nestlé won’t do what’s right to protect California’s precious water supply, it is up to Governor Brown and the California Water Resource Control Boards to step in and stop this blatant misuse of water during our State’s epic drought,” he said.

“Bottling public water for private profit doesn’t make sense for communities and it doesn’t make sense for the environment,” said Sandra Lupien, Western Region Communications Manager at Food & Water Watch, also at the protest in Sacrmaento. “During a historic drought crisis, it is utter madness to allow corporations like Nestlé to suck our dwindling groundwater and sell it for thousands of times what it pays. Putting a halt to water bottling in California is a no-brainer and Governor Jerry Brown must stand up to protect Californians’ public resource.”

After the activists gave the petitions to Nestle representatives at the Sacramento plant, the Nestle supervisor presented the organizers with a letter from Tim Brown, President and CEO of Nestle Waters North America, responding to a letter from the Courage Campaign.

Brown wrote, “Keep in mind that beverages consumed in California but not bottled in the state must be shipped a longer distance, which has its own drawbacks, such as the environmental impact of transportation. Sourcing water in California provides water with a lower carbon footprint, which has a beneficial environmental impact. The entire bottled industry accounts for 0.02 percent of the annual water used in California.”

The company said it also would like to engage in “thoughtful dialogue” with the water bottling opponents.

“We appreciate the opportunity to engage in thoughtful dialogue – and in meaningful action – to address California’s water challenges. We would welcome the opportunity to speak with you – in person or over the phone – to advance our shared desire for a more sustainable California. We are hopeful that the public discussion we are all engaged in around water use – including your efforts – leads to positive collective action.”

In 2014, Nestlé Waters used about 50 million gallons from the Sacramento municipal water supply to produce “Nestlé Pure Life® Purified Drinking Water” and for other plant operations, according to a statement from Nestlé Waters. To read the city of Sacramento’s responses to my questions about the Nestlé bottling plant’s use of city water, go to:http://www.dailykos.com/…)

In Los Angeles, local activists and residents were joined by people from Orange County and Long Beach who took buses to protest outside Nestlé’s bottling plant at 1560 East 20th Street.

The representatives from consumer, environmental and human rights groups who participated in the protest, like at the protest in Sacramento, blasted the corporation for making millions off bottled water during the drought when urban users are seeing increasing restrictions on their water use.

“As California’s water supplies dry up, Nestlé continues to make millions selling bottled water and that’s outrageous!” explained Liz McDowell, campaigner for SumOfUs.org. “We’ve stood up to Nestlé exploiting natural resources for profit in the past everywhere from Pakistan to Canada, and now the global community is speaking out before California runs completely dry.”

The Desert Sun reported earlier this month that Nestlé was bottling water in desert and drought-stricken areas of California and selling it for profit, all while its permit for water pipelines and wells in the San Bernardino National Forest lists 1988 as the year of expiration. Nestlé currently extracts water from at least a dozen natural springs in California for its Arrowhead and Pure Life brands.(http://www.desertsun.com/…)

A majority of people in the U.S. believe Nestle should stop bottling in California, according to a recent poll. However, in spite of the clear and growing public outcry, when asked about the controversy, Nestlé CEO Tim Brown remarked that he wished the multinational corporation could bottle more water from the drought stricken state, the groups pointed out.

“Nestlé is profiteering at the expense of the public interest,” stated Zack Malitz, Campaign Manager at CREDO Action. “In the midst of an historic drought with no end in sight, it is wildly irresponsible for Nestle to extract vast amounts of California’s water.”

Joe Baker, Care2’s Vice President of Advocacy and Editorial, said, “Care2 and its 30 million members are an online community standing together for good – and it is not good for the public to have Nestle bottling our water during an extreme drought in California. We’re asking Nestle to do the responsible thing for the public good, and stop bottling water in a drought-stricken area. Every single drop counts.”

“For decades, Nestle has demonstrated a blatant disregard for local communities and the environment,” said Erin Diaz, the campaign director at Corporate Accountability International’s Think Outside the Bottle campaign. “In response to community concerns about its backdoor political dealings and environmental damage, Nestle has poured millions into PR and greenwashing campaigns. But Nestle’s money can’t wash away its abysmal track record, and Californians are demanding an end to Nestle’s abusive practices.”

John Tye, Campaign Director, Avaaz, concluded, “Families across the American West are already paying a steep price for mismanagement and scandalous selloffs of public resources. It’s time for California, and Governor Brown, to set a strong example for conservation and responsive regulation. Tens of thousands of people across the country are tired of watching companies like Nestlé profit at the expense of the taxpayers.”

The protests take place as Jerry Brown continues to push his plan to construct two massive tunnels under the Delta, potentially the most environmentally destructive protect in California history. The twin tunnels would divert massive quantities of water from the Sacramento River to be used by corporate agribusiness interests irrigating drainage impaired land on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, as well as to Southern California water agencies and oil companies conducting fracking and steam injection operations.

The construction of the tunnels would hasten the extinction of winter-run Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, Delta and longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other imperiled fish species, as well as threaten the salmon and steelhead populations on the Trinity and Klamath rivers.

But the tunnels plan is just one of the many environmentally destructive policies of the Brown administration. Governor Brown has presided over record water exports and fish kills at the Delta pumping facilities; promotes the expansion of fracking in California; pursues water policies that have driven Delta smelt, winter-run Chinook salmon and other fish species closer to extinction; and authorized the completion of questionable “marine protected areas” created under the helm of a big oil lobbyist during the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative. (http://www.truth-out.org/…)

The groups are now urging everybody to sign the pledge by Daily Kos, Courage Campaign and Corporate Accountability International: Do not drink bottled water from Nestlé:https://www.dailykos.com/…

This is the text of the pledge to Nestlé Corporation:

I pledge to choose tap water instead of buying the following Nestlé products: Acqua Panna, Arrowhead, Deer Park, Ice Mountain, Nestea, Nestlé Pure Life, Ozarka, Perrier, Poland Spring, Resource, S. Pellegrino, Sweet Leaf, Tradewinds and Zephyrhills.

For more information, go to: https://www.couragecampaign.org/…

https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2015/05/21/18772569.php

Activists shut down Nestlé water bottling plant in Sacramento

(By Dan Bacher, posting originally on Daily Kos) Environmental and human rights activists, holding plastic “torches” and “pitchforks,” formed human barricades at both entrances to the Nestlé Waters bottling plant in Sacramento at 5:00 a.m. on Friday, March 20, effectively shutting down the company’s operations for the day.

Members of the “Crunch Nestlé Alliance” shouted out a number of chants, including ”We got to fight for our right to water,” “Nestlé, Stop It, Water Not For Profit,” and “¿Agua Para Quien? Para Nuestra Gente.” Continue reading