Passamaquoddy moving ahead to build Bottling Plant

DW4L was alarmed to find out that the Passamaquoddy Tribal Leaders have returned to the idea to tap one of the largest aquifers in Maine, and build a bottling plant.  Under the guise of creating jobs, the Tribe now faces even more exploitation, if they give up the rights to their water.  In addition, the proposed plant is located dangerously close to the proposed East-West highway, ensuring exploitation by the global market.

Link to TV news report:

INDIAN TOWNSHIP, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — A team of geologists has made a discovery that could create 150 jobs in Washington County: a 1,000 acre aquifer with 22 untapped, bubbling springs.

The aquifer is on the Passamaquoddy Tribe’s land in Indian Township.

Tribal leaders are hoping to tap into that aquifer to manufacture Passamaquoddy Blue bottled water.

Geologists with A.E. Hodsdon Engineering said the aquifer has so much water, the tribe could tap 1 million gallons a day.

“We can probably take out 10 times that amount volume,” said Al Hodsdon.

“But you couldn’t bottle that much water, that’s a lot of water,” he said.

Hodsdon has called it the “Saudi Arabia” of fresh ground water, and said test results qualify the water as “above excellent.”

Members of the tribe said they have always known about the natural resource, but never knew how much water sat below the ground.

After consulting with Hodsdon and a developer, Mike Dugay, the tribe is moving foward with plans to develop the plant and manufacture the water.

Economic development consultant Harold Claussey, Director of the Sunrise County Economic Council, has forecasted that the plant would create between 60 and 80 direct jobs, and 80 indirect jobs.

“This is something that we’re really hoping becomes a reality,” said Indian Township Economic Development Director Ernie Neptune.

The Passamaquoddy Tribe reports an unemployment rate of 65 percent.

“With a 60 plus unemployment rate in this area, it’s going to be a blessing,” said Neptune.

It’s the poorest part of the poorest county, where surrounding Washington County towns report unemployment rates as high as percent.

But there is a sense of cautious optimism surrounding this project.

“I think a lot of people want to see it before they believe it,” said Passamaquoddy Karen Sabattis.

In the last decade, the tribe has attempted several projects to create jobs and boost the local economy: a natural gas line terminal, a racino, and a lumber company.

All three projects failed.

But project developers, geologists, and tribal government leaders think it’s going to be different this time around.

“So you’ve got great quality, great quantities, and great opportunity for Washington County, and certainly for the Passamaquoddy Tribe in Indian Township,” said Dugay.

The tribe needs to secure $22 million in funding from the Bureau of Indian Affairs before they can build the bottling plant.

If that funding comes through, the tribe hopes to have the plant up and running by 2013.

DW Newsletter #2, December 2011

Defending Water for Life in Maine

Water for Life, Not for Profit!

 December 2011 Issue #2

Greetings Water Allies. We have spent the last few months traveling around Maine talking about the problems with corporations taking control of our water and encouraging everyone to take a stand and demand local control in their communities.

We’ve also been keeping our eyes and ears open for new threats from Nestlé and others intent on selling Maine’s water for profit.

Is Brewer Maine Nestlé’s Next Water Grab?

We thought something smelled fishy when we read two stories in the Bangor Daily News about a Brewer official going to work for Nestlé / Poland Spring and then within weeks taking a position back in Brewer as the Water Department Supervisor. The August 31st Bangor Daily New reported that Rodney Butler, who had been the Town of Brewer’s Code Enforcement Officer, had left his Brewer position to take an engineering job with Nestlé’s Poland Spring Co. Then the paper printed a second story on October 21st saying that Butler would be returning to Brewer on November 1st as the towns new Water Department Supervisor. What’s up with that quick turn around?

Defending Water has been working hard to find out what is really going on here. Inquiries to the Bangor Daily News and the Pine Tree Watchdog website have provided no help in getting to the bottom of this chain of events. Defending Water has also made attempts to contact Rodney Butler directly to have him explain, what’s going on? Is Butler heading the Brewer Water Department AND working for Poland Spring? Did Poland Spring encourage Butler to work for them and then return to Brewer and take the long vacant water supervisor job?

Denise is working to get answers to these questions and will continue to push forward until we get the full story about the Brewer Water Department, Poland Spring, and Rodney Butler. Please contact us if you uncover more about this sketchy job placement for Mr. Butler. Let’s all keep an eye on this!

Defending Water Web Site

We have been working hard to make the Defending Water website the “go to” place for the latest information about corporate threats to Maine’s water and for resources to help in organizing. We are now also linked with Defending Water websites in Washington and Oregon and will soon be linked with California. So, watch for breaking stories on what is happening in Maine, across the country, and around the world in the struggle to keep corporations from gaining control of water, the very essence of life itself.

Be sure to check our map with sites and stories about bottled water in Maine and our calendar for upcoming events around the state. On the home page you will find resources like ”The Story of Bottled Water”. We’d love to hear your suggestions for how the site can serve you even better.


Defending Water Around The State

West Athens 4th of July Parade ~ July 4th

West Athens calls itself the “free republic of West Athens” and started their 4th of July parade way back in the 60s or 70s to celebrate “true democracy” and freedom of expression. So it seemed like an appropriate place to find allies of Defending Water for Life, as well as to network with people in rural areas who may be concerned about the threat to Maine’s water and forests from development of any future East/West highway across Maine.

Volunteers helped prepare our float. We draped the large Maine Drain banner over the hood and grill of the truck, and strung up the banners on the side and back of the truck.

We had two 30 gallon drums in the truck filled with creek water that volunteers used as “ammo” for the water cannons and sprayed parade participants. (Historically, this parade has involved a big play water fight.) The center piece of our float was a volunteer dressed up as a “Nestlé Monster.” She was draped in Poland Spring bottles, had “blood” painted around her mouth, and acted scary.

Another volunteer wore a rigid poster with the “Anti-Bottled Water Pledge” and gathered signatures for that pledge. Anyone who signed the pledge got “water warrior” stripes painted on their face…if they wanted. The poster was FULL of signatures! Chris wore the Nestlé Maine Drain sandwich board chanting, “Water for Life, Not for Profit!” and leading calls with volunteers on the float. She talked to lots of people about water mining and the East/West highway. This created great exposure for the reality of water mining in Maine and the danger that the highway, if built, could result in much more.

Thanks to all our volunteers: Kyla, Liam, Trouble, Becca, Nate, Sam, Paul, Sonia, Jim, and Lee. We had lots of fun and really got our message out. See you next year!

Maine Grassroots Media Conference ~ September 10th

WERU Community Radio and Unity College sponsored the Maine Grassroots Media Conference (MGMC). The mission was to bring people together who work in grassroots media to collaborate and strengthen their work. It turned out to be a great networking and skill building opportunity.

The one-day event was chock full of outstanding workshops. Chris learned about utilizing local access television to organize a local community, using art to communicate political messaging. and how to use “mind mapping” to brainstorm in a group, organize thoughts, and create graphics that express the brainstorm. Chris has since used this tool.

We will be posting the dates for next year’s MGMC on our calendar, so please stay tuned. We’re planning to be there and hope to see you too.

Grow ~ September 16th – 18th

Just a few days later, we attended the annual New England’s Grassroots Organizing Workshop (GROW) held on the beautiful shores of Bryant Pond. Grow is sponsored by Resources for Organizing and Social Change (ROSC). This year’s theme was “Tactics for Organizers”.

Three days of workshops included, Canvassing: One to One Organizing, Media Tactics for Grassroots Organizing, Using Referenda and Town Meeting Resolutions, Using

Popular Education to Organize, and Direct Action for Social Change. In addition to workshops, GROW uses interactive methods to help attendees develop their skills in planning actions and becoming better organizers.

The workshops were interactive, educational and lots of fun. A large amount of printed materials on a variety of subjects was available. A wide range of amazing people attended including organizers, activists, artists, students, teachers and farmers. Facilitators included Clair Gelinas, Iggy Brimmer, Sha’an Mouliert and Larry Dansinger.

Defending Water encourages everyone to try and attend this event next year. Cost is $10-$80 (pay what you can/all welcome) which includes housing, meals, all workshops, use of facilities and enjoyment of the outdoors. If you can’t make the whole weekend it is worth the trip to go for a day. Check our calendar for next year’s dates.

Thanks to everyone who made GROW possible.

Common Ground Fair ~ September 23th – 25th

Defending Water for Life organizers Denise and Chris spent three days in Unity at the annual Common Ground Fair, talking with hundreds of people from all over the state having them sign our poster-sized anti-bottled water pledge, and draw on quilt squares to add to our water quilt.

Drawing on quilt squares at the fair.

When folks approached us with concerns about Nestlé in their towns or neighbors’ towns, we talked about a rights-based approach to undermine corporate power. Only a few people had heard about this method of empowerment at the local level and appeared excited and inspired by the end of our talks.

It was powerful to hear so many people across Maine share their stories and their passion for water. We learned a great deal about some core issues concerning Maine residents who want to buck the bottle, but feel helpless. In many locations Mainers have problems with arsenic and radon in their water. This is a rural, well-water issue that needs to be addressed moving forward.

Thanks to everyone who stopped by and contributed. It was great to see all of you and we look forward to next year.

Harry Brown’s Farm ~ Summer 2011

Defending Water also spent time talking to people at Harry Brown’s Farm, a MOFGA certified organic garden in Starks, Maine, which has hosted gatherings for 21 years.  The Hill hosts four annual festivals featuring music, speakers, art, vendors, dance, puppets, poi, and political activism. There are plenty of workshops where you can learn new things and opportunities for hands-on creating of cool stuff. The Hill attracts a diverse and interesting group of artists and activists, so you never know whom you might meet.

Thanks to the Brown family and Hillary Lister for inviting us into the political action tent.  It is a good opportunity to join others working to create a better Maine, especially to empower each other to be a strong force for protecting Maine’s water and demanding local control in our communities.

Political action tent on the Hill.

Defending Water Joins Wells Reserve Sponsored Tour ~ October 5th

While Defending Water’s primary focus is on opposing corporate control of water and water services in Maine, our right to clean water is also impacted by long-standing pollution and mismanagement of our watersheds. Defending Water was happy to join the tour sponsored by Wells Reserve to see all of the great projects taking place in Kittery and Eliot to restore the Spruce Creek watershed and to help re-open shellfish harvest areas. Other participants included folks from Spruce Creek Association, FB Environmental, Kittery and York Land Trusts, Kennebunk Conservation Committee and Piscataqua Region Estuaries Partnership.

The focus of the project, funded through a multi-phased DEP grant, is on managing storm water using low impact development and best management practices to reduce bacteria loading and the export of other pollutants into Spruce Creek and on the removal of Shoreys Brook dam. At various sites in Kittery and Eliot we saw examples of the work being done. These included:

Rain Gardens – Shallow depressions with native plants that allow storm water to collect and naturally seep into the ground.

Vegetated Buffers – Areas of vegetation maintained to protect the water quality of nearby water bodies.

Infiltration Steps – Steps taken to slow down storm water runoff and encourage it to seep into the soil.

Tree Box Filter – An in ground container planted with native tree species. Storm water is directed into the tree box and is naturally filtered before it enters the catch basin.

Removing the Shoreys Brook Dam – The dam at the head of Shoreys Brook, which forms the border between Eliot and South Berwick, has likely been in place in some form since the 1600’s. The dam blocks the passage of a variety of fish that need to spend portions of their lives in both fresh and salt water. The goal is to remove the dam and replace the culvert under Rt.101. Both tasks will restore fish passage and a free flowing system.

Shoreys Brook joins the Salmon Falls River at its junction with the Cocheco River where they form the Piscataqua River.

Shoreys Brook dam.


Behind The Scenes

Fryeburg, Maine

Fryeburg continues to suffer under the weight of Nestlé’s water mining for its Poland Spring brand and its unscrupulous manipulations of town politics. The towns Comprehensive Plan is being re-written virtually in secret, with no public announcement of the time and place for the meetings. Gene Berghoffen, who has represented Nestlé, heads the Comprehensive Plan committee which could frame the future town plan for the advancement of all things Nestlé.

Changes in land use regulations, residential re-districting and wellhead protection could all be affected by what is written in the Comp. Plan. Like all town business, these meetings should be open to the public and be observed by anyone interested. Defending Water is supporting local residents who are demanding that the meetings be made public. It is totally unacceptable that Nestlé is allowed to manipulate things behind closed doors.

Indian Township, Maine

This summer Defending Water became aware that the Passamaquoddy tribe at Indian Township has been working with the University of Maine at Orono and the Maine Drinking Water Program on an economic development plan to extract and bottle water from the Tomah spring on tribal lands. This project is described here, At this time the Passamaquoddy do not have the permits to extract or transport water and it is unclear if they have the necessary financing, but there are several test wells already in place.

For century’s native people have had their livelihood taken away and been forced to do what they were told by whites in power. In Maine the native tribes are a sovereign people with their own government and leaders, but the Passamaquoddy are in real need of jobs and financial stability.

During her time on the Mother Earth Water Walk, Chris developed a relationship with many of the native people who joined in the walk. That effort opened a door for Defending Water to enter into discussion with some tribal members who do not believe that selling water is in keeping with their belief about honoring and respecting water. We are seeking ways for Defending Water and tribal members to stand together with the common goal that water is for people and for nature and should not be sold for profit. It is essential to find other ways for the tribe to prosper and we hope that the program at U Maine Orono will change its focus.


Action Items

– Plan local events in your community to talk about the importance of protecting water from commodification and privatization. Please contact us! We are available and energized to come speak, screen films or be part of a community forum.

– Hold a Democracy School in your community. Defending Water cosponsors Democracy Schools with the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF). During these single day or weekend workshops, participants learn about the history of democracy and the increasing power of corporations in the U.S., and how to use local control to create true democracy in our communities. We will help you find participants and bring CELDF to your community.

– East/West Highway. We have just sent you and all of our Defending Water allies an action alert outlining how you can get involved to protect Maine’s water and forests from this road to exploitation. We are focusing on identifying potentially impacted land owners. Contact us if you have any information about the highway and/or if you would like us to add you to the East/West Highway Working Group.

– Watch out for the TransPacificPartnership Agreement which the U. S. is negotiating with at least 7 countries circling the Pacific from Chile to Australia. This is another Free Trade Agreement that would further undermine state and local control of businesses, services and the environment. We are particularly concerned with trade rules that would further promote privatization of water services and international trade in water. As we get more details we will post them on our website.

Mousam River, Kennebunk Maine


We look forward to hearing from you about your interests and concerns as we pursue strategies to protect Maine from corporate greed.


~ Water for Life ~

Chris Buchanan


Denise Penttila


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Passamaquoddy Tribe to create $25M water bottling facility, 96 full-time jobs

By Sharon Kiley Mack, Special to the BDN
Posted Nov. 24, 2011

INDIAN TOWNSHIP, Maine — The Passamaquoddy Tribe at Indian Township has nearly completed lining up investors for a $25 million water bottling plant, a project that tribal Gov. Joseph Socabasin said will provide 96 full-time, good-paying jobs with benefits.

Socabasin discussed the project this week in the wake of the tribe’s loss at the polls in early November, which blocked plans for a tribe-owned racino in Washington County. Socabasin said the loss was a disappointment, but the tribe continues to pursue several other projects, including the bottling plant.

He said it will be the only Native American-owned water bottling company in North America and with its close proximity to the port at Eastport, may have the ability to market tribal water around the world. Tomah Water LLC, with an office in Bangor, has been created to seek investors for the project.

The water will come from a spring water aquifer on tribal land in Washington County and will be bottled and initially marketed — maybe as soon as next fall — to Native American casinos and hotel chains under those businesses’ own private labels, Socabasin said. Eventually, however, he hopes to break into the retail water market selling under the brand name Passamaquoddy Blue.

“This is very exciting for the tribe,” Socabasin said.

He said initial testing has indicated extremely high-quality water, and at least one million gallons a day can be extracted without affecting the aquifer’s recharge capacity. “There is absolutely no concern of draining the aquifer,” he said.

The aquifer is located about four miles into a forest from U.S. Route 1 just north of the center of town, near Telephone Road. Socabasin said it will be cheaper for the tribe to run a pipeline from the aquifer to the highway than build a road to the site. “This will be much less intrusive for the environment as well,” he said. A 40,000-square-foot facility will be built on Route 1.

Hydrologists and geologists, both privately hired by the tribe and from the Maine Drinking Water Program, have been on site and test pumpings have been conducted. Socabasin said a hydrologist who tested the water told him the quality was “the best water seen in the Northeast.”

Socabasin said the reservation has two freshwater aquifers. One is currently being used as the tribe’s drinking water source but the other would be used solely for bottled water production. He said there would be four bottling lines and when the facility is at its peak — in an estimated 18 months to two years — it will provide 96 full time jobs.

The primary objective of the bottling project, according to a statement online, is to create a significant source of jobs on the reservation with earnings that “can stimulate local improvements for the overall well-being of tribal members well into the future.”

The tribe has nearly completed putting together the investment package, Socabasin said, and construction could begin as early as next spring.

Permits will be required from the Maine Department of Agriculture, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection — because extraction will exceed 50,000 gallons a year — and the Maine Drinking Water Program.

Roger Crouse, director of the Drinking Water Program, said recently that one of his hydrologists is already working with the tribe on the project.

Socabasin said the tribe originally hoped to begin construction of the plant this summer but that was delayed because of funding issues. He explained that the project needs to be funded through private investors and loans from the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

“This is because traditional banks cannot foreclose on reservation properties,” he said.

“BIA was expected (in 2011) to get $250 million for its guaranteed loan program, but that was cut by 80 percent,” Socabasin said. “We were only able to obtain $4.4 million. We are now working with several other programs and expect the full financing package to be in place soon.” He would not be more specific about how much funding is in hand or a time frame for start up.

Socabasin said the tribe will initially market the water to other Native American businesses, such as casinos and hotel chains, which have a policy of dealing first with other Native American businesses.

The chief said that will give his tribe an immediate market and access to a steady stream of bottled water drinkers. Also the tribe’s business plan states that “private label bottling currently generates in excess of $1 billion in yearly sales with growth rates exceeding traditional brands.”

Eventually the water also will be sold retail.

“But in the beginning we will not be a position to compete with companies such as Poland Spring, now owned by Nestle,” the governor said. “We expect that it will take a couple of years before we will be able to offer our own brand.”

Socabasin said the capacity of the aquifer “is huge and offers an amazing economic opportunity for the tribe.”

He said that when he was elected governor a year ago, one of his first acts was to establish an Office of Economic Development. “We had never had such an effort before,” he said. “My whole goal is not just to create jobs, but to pay a livable wage.”

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