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Water District board votes to flush Nestlé contract

By Laura Dolce, Seacoast Online, June 04, 2009

KENNEBUNK — The Kennebunk, Kennebunkport, and Wells Water District Board of Trustees voted unanimously May 27 to permanently remove from consideration a contract that would have allowed Nestlé Waters North America/Poland Spring to withdraw water from the district.

The contract previously had been tabled indefinitely. “As far as we’re concerned, it’s a done deal,” said Bob Emmons, the trustee representing Kennebunk. But that doesn’t mean that future water extraction discussions won’t take place. “This (vote) does not preclude our ever discussing water extraction,” said Water District Superintendent Norm Labbe. “I’m not in favor of limiting future boards.”

Labbe said he thought the furor over water extraction talks and the most recent vote was a case of “politics trumping science and common sense.”

“I’m personally frustrated over the misinformation out there,” he said. “People are reacting to misinformation and fear. They’re not understanding the science.”

Save Our Water organizer Jamilla El-Shafei said that’s something on which she and Labbe don’t agree.

“The fact is, scientists don’t really know what that much water extraction could do to the environment,” she said.

El-Shafei called the trustees’ vote “a big victory for Save Our Water.”

“We have been lobbying the trustees and Norm Labbe for a year,” she said. “I think Norm does want to sell (water), but there was so much public outrage that I don’t think a contract with Nestlé is in the future.”

Trustee Jim Burrows of Kennebunkport said the board took the vote to quell rumors that they were once again considering the contract with Nestlé.

He said every time a story about water ran in the news, people began to worry that the contract was once again being discussed.

“It was getting to be irritating,” he said. “It was bothering most of us trustees.”

El-Shafei commended the board for its decision, but cautioned that the fight to protect local water continues.

“We intend to remain vigilant and will oppose any attempts by Nestlé to tap into the community’s aquifer,” she said. “It’s not over till it’s over.”

Burrows said that in voting, the trustees were just acting on behalf of their constituents. Now, he said, they aren’t interested in selling their water.  But someday, if people were to look at the science, that feeling could change.

[Note:  For several REBUTTALS to the argument that massive water extraction is harmless, see “Enough water? Let’s figure it out”]

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