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Nestle Waters Staggering Over Lost McCloud Deal, So The Underground Piles On (A Lot)

Posted by Tom Chandler 7/15/2008

I admit it; I've taken it easy on multinational corporate predator Nestle Waters of North America as of late.

After all, I've been happily fly fishing in Montana, and they've taken a pounding all over the USA at the hands of suddenly energized rural towns which are no longer happy to see them suck the local aquifers dry, and do so in exchange for a handful of sub-living-wage jobs.

Bottle Pet Sweat?
With Nestle being turned away by small towns everywhere, we'd like to suggest an alternative liquid for them to bottle

There's even rumors floating around the Underground's neck of the woods that Nestle's willing to do almost anything to make the bad press stop, which... (wait for it) is the Underground's cue to pile on.

Our first cannonball into the bottled water pool?

First up Is Kennebec, Maine, where Nestle's plant proposal was
soundly trounced by vigorous citizen opposition, who forced the trustees to cancel a vote on the project:


When local citizens became energized in opposition to a proposed public/private partnership between our water district and Nestle/Poland Spring, they invited the water district officials to what was a spirited and well-attended meeting on June 22 in Kennebunk. The uproar caused postponement of the anticipated vote at the June 25 trustees meeting.

That, my furry group of Undergrounders, is one Maine-sized can of whupass.

Next comes the story of a small town in rural Washington which
didn't even let Nestle unpack their bags - they kicked the minions of the cloven hooved deceiver multinational to the curb right away:

Last month, without so much as a public hearing, Enumclaw sent a message to the multinational corporation: Go tap someone else's spring.

In the past several years, as the bottled-water industry has boomed, Nestlé has set up 26 plants in towns across the country, tapping into local springs. Enumclaw was its first shot at a Northwest plant.

It did not go well. As word spread of the proposal, residents unleashed a torrent of e-mails and letters to the local paper, concerned about a possible water shortage, the potential for invasive corporate control and the damage plastic bottles can do to the environment.

Ouch. And this in-your-face rejection happened to none other than Dave Palais -- Nestle's McCloud operative, who's taken so many lumps over Nestle's proposed McCloud plant and subsequent retreat from their original proposal that we're almost (not really) starting to feel sorry for him.

Next we look to an AFP story
outlining the backlash against bottled water that Nestle and other bottlers are "enjoying" right now:

Janet Larsen, director of research at the Earth Policy Institute, cites a "backlash against bottled water as more people are realizing what they get out of the bottles is not any better than what they get out of the faucet."

The Pacific Institute, a California think thank on sustainability issues, contends that producing bottles for US water consumption required the equivalent of more than 17 million barrels of oil in 2006, not including the energy for transportation.

Haven't read enough about the backlash against bottled water? Here's another:

Across the country, opposition to bottled water is building, amid growing concerns about the industry's environmental impact and rising fears about private control of public water supplies.

"There's no question that there is a groundswell," said Ruth Caplan, coordinator of Defending Water for Life, a Washington, D.C.-based campaign that opposes the bottled water industry.

Sadly, the news isn't all good; the Underground's heart goes out to the citizens of Fryeburg, Maine, who are facing their umpteenth (Ok, third or fourth) round of litigation at the hands of Nestle's legal department.

Still, there's hope, as evidenced by this lengthy passage from a story on the Corporate Accountability International site. It's long, but the last paragraphs are worth it:

One reason community members were concerned with Nestlé's practices was the fact that the corporation was getting local water for a relative bargain, while most residents of Fryeburg got the short end of the stick.

Nestl̩ secured a deal with a handful of local investors giving the corporation exclusive access to the town's primary wells. While Nestle and a few local investors reaped large profits from the deal, other residents received no tangible benefits Рinstead, it became more difficult for Fryeburg residents to protect a water source that had once been designated to serve the needs of the local community.

In response to the local opposition, Poland Spring opened an office in Fryeburg.

"When Poland Spring decided to open an office in Fryeburg to offer "˜free coffee and real communication' as part of their "˜good neighbor policy,' they also offered to give away free cases of Poland Spring water," said Mike Dana, a Fryeburg resident. "I was amazed at how ludicrous it was to pump water from the aquifer into tanker trucks, ship it to a bottling plant, put it into plastic bottles, ship it back to Fryeburg and offer it to the local residents as a "˜free gift.'"

Dana, along with Dearborn (the two are neighbors), had an idea about what Poland Spring could do with its free gift.

I think the Underground has the same idea Dana and Dearborn do, but I'm too polite to say it.

In truth, what's happening is nothing short of revolutionary.

Nestle's grown used to walking into small rural towns and having their way with the locals, buying water for a pittance and selling it at prices that make gasoline seem cheap.

Suddenly, communities are recognizing the risks, and seeing battles being fought and won by others.

The battle for McCloud's water may prove to be a turning point in the bottled water saga; Nestle's operative arrived and played the usual gambits -- pitting community members against each other and using Nestle's legal department to intimidate opponents (including a heavy-handed attempt to subpoena personal financial records).

Yet here we are a few years later, and Nestle's on the mat, thanks largely to a committed community effort and the involvement of groups like CalTrout.

See you fighting the good fight, Tom Chandler.

AuthorPicture

Tom Chandler

As the author of the decade leading fly fishing blog Trout Underground, Tom believes that fishing is not about measuring the experience but instead of about having fun. As a staunch environmentalist, he brings to the Yobi Community thought leadership on environmental and access issues facing us today.

27 comments
value addition.
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[...] readers know of my deep and abiding dislike of Nestle Waters of North America #8211; a small division of one of the world#8217;s most (deservedly) boycotted [...]
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Yes, Nestle found a legal loophole you could drive a truck loading station through. The final supreme court decision hinged on whether the town's comprehensive plan was a "visionary" document or a regulatory one -- largely ignoring the common sense question as to whether a Swiss multinational can force a town to permit a 24/7 truck loading station in a residentially zoned area.Gotta love those Nestle ... more guys.
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FYI, the town of Fryeburg has been completely bought by Nestle Waters.
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Please post an overview/updates on this case to the 'Nestlé's Actions' website at: http://www.nestlesa.org/ This includes information on other areas of concern about Nestlé activities. Also news of its underhand tactics, such as the spy that infiltrated a Swiss campaign group that was producing a book on Nestlé, including on its water activities.
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FINALLY! Those interested in cracking the whip on Nestle keeping track of Nestle for real should visit my just-launched StopNestleWaters.org Web site. It's focused entirely on Nestle-related issues, and because it's not a fly fishing blog (like the Trout Underground), there's lots, lots more to talk about. The Trout Underground will continue taking note of Nestle's activities, but most of the action ... more will be taking place on StopNestleWaters.org. See you there!
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Andrew: Another appeal? Already?? I guess Nestle really does provide jobs... for lawyers. You mean you're seeing a Google ad for Poland Spring on my Web site? Google allows advertisers to target specific regions (based on IP filtering). Since that money goes to paying for this site's hosting, in a perverse way, Nestle's paying for me to beat them up...
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Tom, Are you aware that on this very page Poland Spring has an ad for free water dispensers when you start home delivery????? How is that possible?
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Nestle has already filed their appeal in the East Fryeburg case. Our good neighbors are wasting no time. There was a good article in the Conway Sun yesterday. I wonder how many of the locals will really read it and see what a ruthless, under-handed company they are. People here are so easily influenced by their meager contributions. It boggles the mind. Unfortunately, so many of these folks, many ... more older, trust that Poland Springs (a small, Maine business, or so they believe), is going to help them out with taxes, new fire trucks, high paying jobs, etc. Right now the local papers are full of good-paying jobs, full-time, with benefits. The obvious problem is that the same people who think Nestle will offer great jobs are unqualified for ANY of these positions. The fight in Fryeburg will continue until we win!
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Catherine: Great news! Did Nestle's Maine legal firm stumble out of the courtroom vowing to file yet another attempt to bankrupt the town legal appeal? Mike: Thanks so much for the link to the Nestle Chairman about the role of charitable giving in Nestle's corporate vision. Well, actually, non-charitable giving, since they want something for it... Reid: Exactly how does a school let that happen? Damn. ... more Thanks to everyone who contributes to these Nestle threads. Given the beating they're taking these days, you've gotta figure Nestle's noticing...
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Oh, and did anyone mention that the letter jackets for the local prep school were donated by Nestle. I have not personally seen them, but was told that "Poland Spring" (and I'll assume in the trademarked typeface) is emblazoned across the jackets. No PR involved there as these kids travel the state and New England wearing the walking billboard... Oh yeah, Nestle/Poland Spring does no advertising.. ... more yeah...right.....
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Giving money to good causes, sponsoring events of interested parties and taking politicians and journalists on free trips are all part of Nestlé's strategy for diverting criticism and undermining regulation of its activities. Its current Chairman and previous Chief Executive Officer, Peter Brabeck-Letmathé, is famous for saying in Boston that money should only be given to charities if it will increase ... more shareholder value - a not entirely unexpected motivation, but not one usually voiced so clearly. See my blog for more information, for example: http://boycottnestle.blogspot.com/2007/03/nestle-generosity-to-good-causes.html Nestlé was last month named as one of the ten most criticized corporations on the planet by an industry risk assessment firm. For an overview of criticisms see the site: http://www.nestlesa.org/ If any experts on Nestlé's water activities would like to write for that site, contact the administrator.
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Speaking of throwing around cash... Nestle offered the school district in Fryeburg 175k for a portable classroom to ease crowding in a 60+ year old school. Mark Dubois stated in the meeting that he noticed the issue when he was in the school to install a trout tank and the infrastructure could not support the requirements for the trout tank. When asked if this sort of a donation was a norm for Nestle, ... more Dubois answered that they had given a ball field in Michigan, and regularly made donations to the Poland Maine school system. Then, answering another question as to whether this would be used as a PR tool, Dubois again stated that it definitely would not. But one member of the audience then wondered to the board whether these schools had had the same promises made by Nestle, that there donations would not be used as a PR vehicle. And how could we in Fryeburg ensure that the 175k donation would not be used at a PR vehicle in other communities. Mr. Dubois assured that it would not be used. Now, let's all wait and see if the press release comes out about the donation to the school district, just as the press release came out about the 35k Nestle donated to the rescue squad for defibrilators.
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Well, the court decision came down Friday on the Fryeburg lawsuit. Nestle's 80B appeal was DENIED.
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Betsy: I appreciate you airing your goals. Too often, pro-Nestle folks have cast opponents as anti-business -- not pro-public process, or smart development. My goals were a little less ambitious: I wanted the whole city of McCloud to participate in a Nestle negotiation - not just the mokes who negotiated (and I use the term loosely) the first deal with Nestle. That contract went so far beyond "sweetheart" ... more that Nestle's lawyers might as well have written it (oh wait, they did). At this point, I'm happy to keep pointing out Nestle's bad faith issues and the enviro-related issues around water bottling, but what I'm really watching is the process around the contract renegotiation that Nestle has repeatedly promised (they've promised a lot [no groundwater pumping, in depth EIR, new contract) but have delivered damn near nothing in writing as of yet. And yes, it's interesting how cheaply rural townsfolk will sell their priceless resources. Nestle throws a few bucks around (early in the process), and they suddenly stand to make several bazillion dollars over the life of a contract, and the town's left with a few donations, a handful of not-even-living-wage jobs, and all the negative impacts (smog, road destruction, loss of resource, etc).
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I was asked not too long ago, by a reporter from the Redding Searchlight,about what I would like to see happen with the Nestle proposal in McCloud. I told him that Nestle could be a "Good Neighbor" by getting "out of town, and donating the land purchased for the bottling facility, to the people of McCloud! Their "Good Neighbor" activities include throwing a paltry $5,000 at local non-profit, high ... more profile events....whoops!...(They cut back this past weekend and only "donated" $4,000 to the local McCloud festival.) This keeps Nestle in the press for their "good deeds". For a lot of people, $5,000 is a lot of money. For Nestle, it's a drop in the bucket! It's so easy for them to keep greasing the palms of the locals. Follow the money! Hopefully, the decision makers in McCloud will have become educated on this issue, beyond what they get from Nestle's PR machine, so they will realize that they will save money and grief by keeping Nestle out of town! Right now, the money that Nestle is throwing at the town and local communities is very tempting.
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[...] a rundown on some of the other battles Nestle Water has [...]
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Scott: I've got a review coming soon of Botllemania. It's very well researched, and if I have a complaint about it, it's that the author seems pretty wishy-washy about her own conclusions, agonizing endlessly over water choices that seem pretty obvious.
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Iam not sure if it was already mentioned, but I just heard the author of Bottle Mania interviewd on the radio and her book sounds like a fairly in depth look at the destruction of such places as Fryeburg by Poland Springs/Nestle.
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Andrew: I posted it yesterday ("Does Nestle's Momma Even Love Them Anymore"). Good luck with Fryeburg. Keep us posted.
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And I'd also like to mention that in the Fryeburg case, Judge Cole will be making his decision by the end of next week. We'll keep you posted!
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Tom, Did you happen to read the AP article by Samantha Young, Sacramento, CA? California's Attorney General Jerry Brown said on Tuesday that he will sue to block the proposed water-bottling operation in Northern California unless its effects on global warming are evaluated. Hurray! Maybe we are all making some headway.
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The case of Nestlé exploiting the water resources in São Lourenço, Brazil, shows how communities can suffer. There it took a 10-year international campaign and a legal battle to stop water extraction from the aquifer that the historic spa town relied on for its tourist industry. For more on what happened and lessons for other campaigns, see: http://globaljusticeideas.blogspot.com/2008/07/protecting-right-to-water.html
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I think we just met a Nestle shill
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Dude: I haven't heard anyone play the "outside agitator" card since... well, someone played it in McCloud. Since you raised it, let's look at it carefully. First, canny readers will note that Nestle Corp isn't exactly a local (at least in Maine). In fact, it's hard to imagine an entity more non-local than a Swiss multinational - and its entourage of non-local consultants, non-local employees, national ... more PR firm, and "friendly" local operatives, who move from town to town, spreading a little cash and pitting neighbors against each other. In fact, face Nestle's formidable non-local legal juggernaut - as the towns of McCloud and Fryeburg already have - and you very, very quickly become aware there's nothing "local" about Nestle. So for the sake of accuracy, I'm forced to ask: who's the Outside Agitator in this scenario? As for your comment about protesting breweries, well, let's look at that too. First -- as we've come to realize -- Nestle isn't local, so unlike a microbrewery, the considerable profits of a bottling plant leave the community immediately. Accruing to the community are a few jobs (most of which aren't filled by locals, historically speaking), the privatization of a resource, and all the environmental impacts (like increased truck traffic, smogs, watershed damage, etc). A microbrewery also involves considerable processing of water, where value is added in the form of other ingredients which means (wait for it)... better jobs for the community, and the chance for local (that word again) vendors and producers to sell to the brewery. When Nestle builds a bottling planet, they're not "producing" anything, but instead strip mining a community's resources, and typically paying almost nothing for it, and then selling it at prices higher than gasoline. And while we're on the subject of breweries, I'd like to point out that Nestle usually builds exclusivity into its contracts. That means - if Nestle's original contract with McCloud had gone through - it would have been impossible for a microbrewery to start operations in the town of McCloud (providing jobs for locals) because the Nestle contract forbid it. How good is that kind of exclusivity for local economies? What's happening here isn't that a bunch of radical hippies are touring the country and mucking up poor Nestle's plans. Instead, Nestle's discovering that rural communities are no longer the pushovers they used to be. They can't simply move in, extract the resources (paying little for it), and leave the town with all sorts of negative impacts. Nestle's running madly all over the country trying to tie up water deals because they know the day is coming when they'll have to start paying their fair share for the resource -- assuming they're allowed to strip mine it at all.
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Nestle's at it again with their PR in the above comment. Their PR machine is huge. Why wouldn't they contribute to blogs? They either "buy" people off, or they come in with their own "shills" to make statements about the "apparent lack of facts" presented by the anti-bottling groups. My son has a brewery in California. That is a "value added" product, and it is not taken from the source. It does not ... more come in plastic bottles. It is not a right of all humans to have access to beer from beer taps. It is their right to have water....once you tamper with water from the source, life downstream changes! We don't want them in McCloud!
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"When local citizens became energized in opposition to a proposed public/private partnership between our water district and Nestle/Poland Spring, they invited the water district officials to what was a spirited and well-attended meeting on June 22 in Kennebunk. The uproar caused postponement of the anticipated vote at the June 25 trustees meeting." Get your facts straight - it was a couple of Kennebunk ... more residents and the rest were out of state, anti-bottled water activists. Why don't people protest when a large beer brewery comes to town, buys water and makes beer to sell for profit?
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