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Proposed Water Ordinance Whets Debate In Wells (WMTW-TV)

WMTW-TV News (Portland, ME) Watch Video

Residents in Wells will vote [Saturday, May 16, 2009] on a proposed ordinance that would regulate water extraction, a proposal that opponents said Wednesday night would lead to lawsuit and hurt business.

Opponents of the Rights-Based ordinance hosted a meeting Wednesday night to spell out their arguments against the proposal, saying it will strip them of their legal and constitutional rights. News 8’s Will Lewis reported that the opponents had five different attorneys read a three-page document. Outside the meeting, supporters distributed information.

“I need to do more. My bias is against getting involved with an international company pumping water out of here. That doesn’t mean it’s the wrong thing to do, it’s just my personal bias. I’m looking for more information,” said Earl Whitfield, of Wells.

The ordinance is aimed to stop Poland Spring from extracting water, Lewis reported.

“This is a strong and good business in Maine, and we would like to continue to see it grow. To do that, we need to develop additional water resources,” Poland Spring spokesman Tom Brennan said.

The opposition said the ordinance was written by people that live outside of Maine. Gail Darrell, a community organizer with the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund in New Hampshire, helped develop the ordinance after people asked her to.

“Could the citizens have come up with their own? Certainly, and we would have loved to sit down with them and come up with their own language from Maine, but what happened is we are in a time crunch,” Darrell said.

“I think we have to do more research. I think we have to have more input into the law as opposed to someone just taking something that applies somewhere else and bringing it in for here,” said Chris Fitch, of Wells.

Ultimately, people left the meeting with information, but no definite answers, Lewis said. A vote is scheduled for Saturday, and both sides said they will continue to press the issue.

“If we can’t continue to develop resources, we can’t continue to grow. We need water to support our business,” Brennan said.

“It’s really a question of do you want water extraction or don’t you?” Darrell said. “If you don’t want water extraction, the Rights-Based ordinance is the way to vote. If you don’t care if a multinational corporation comes in and takes your water, then go for the regulatory approach.”

Both sides said they will try to reach people any way they can in the next two days. Some will have forums on public television, while others will run radio ads.

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