Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

The decision "paves the way for a private corporation to profit from a vital public resource for decades to come," said Nisha Swinton of Food & Water Watch. (Photo: Mike Mozart/flickr/cc)

In "Profound Loss for Maine's Citizens," Court OKs Sale of Town's Water to Nestle

Decision "paves the way for a private corporation to profit from a vital public resource for decades to come."

Andrea Germanos

It was a win for corporate control of public water on Thursday for one Maine town.

The winner in the case is Nestlé Waters of North America, which operates locally as Poland Spring. Fryeburg, Maine property owner Bruce Taylor and advocacy group Food & Water Watch had challenged the decision by the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) that afforded the company the right to bottle and sell off water from the aquifer.

The Portland, Maine Press Herald reports:

The contract gives Poland Spring – a subsidiary of Nestle Waters – leasing rights to withdraw up to 603,000 gallons of water per day at the same basic rate as Fryeburg residents.

Taylor and Food and Water Watch had argued that the water district's charter didn't allow for bulk extraction, bottling and reselling of the water, but Maine's top court disagreed, upholding the deal that allows the company to lease premises and purchase water. The court found "that there was no abuse of discretion or violation of statutory provision," the Associated Press reports. The ruling states, "The proposed agreement was for twenty-five years, with the option of four additional five-year extensions."

The Bangor Daily News points out that

All three of the PUC’s commissioners recused themselves from the case over conflicts of interest, as they each had business involvement with Nestle Waters prior to their appointment to the commission. The impasse resulted in new state law allowing Gov. Paul LePage to appoint as alternate commissioners three retired judges: Paul Rudman, John Atwood and Francis Marsano.

Colin Woodard explored this conflict of interest in depth back in 2013 for the Press Herald in an article entitled "For regulators and Nestlé Waters, conflict by the gallon." And while some residents may welcome the $12,000 a month the new contract makes Nestle pay to the town and believe that the company is operating fairly, Woodard's reporting also pointed to the approach to water as a commodity that has raised the ire of critics in Fryeburg and beyond:

Some residents question the arrangement and mistrust the motives of Nestle SA, whose global CEO, Peter Brabeck, has repeatedly argued that water is not a human right, apart from the 6.6 gallons per day he says a person needs for hydration and basic hygiene. Water used for other purposes must have “a price,” he has said regularly, in order to spur necessary infrastructure investments needed to conserve a precious resource he predicts the planet will run short of long before oil.

Nisha Swinton, a senior organizer with Food & Water Watch issued a statement following the decision, calling it "a profound loss for Maine's citizens" that "paves the way for a private corporation to profit from a vital public resource for decades to come."

"Water is a basic right," she added. "No private company should be allowed to rake in profits from water while leaving a local community high and dry. As we've seen in communities around the country, selling off Fryeburg's water will do nothing to help the town's residents.

"Nestlé has a long history of bullying communities into selling off public assets for private profit. Unfortunately, they've won this round," Swinton said.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

'A No-Brainer': Lawmakers Urge Pelosi to Hold Vote on Stock Trading Ban

"Perhaps this means some of our colleagues will miss out on lucrative investment opportunities," said House members in a bipartisan letter. "We don't care."

Jessica Corbett ·

US Puts Troops on Standby as War Tensions Over Ukraine Mount

The U.K. threatens "lightning war" as military forces mobilize in eastern Europe.

Andrea Germanos ·

Advocacy Group Urges Pfizer to Combat Paxlovid Inequality

"Help end the pandemic this year around the world," one advocate told Pfizer. "Not just in a handful of rich countries."

Kenny Stancil ·

260+ Companies Demand 'Big, Bold Action' on Clean Energy

"The time to act is now," the firms wrote in a letter to Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi.

Andrea Germanos ·

Right-Wing Supreme Court Takes Up Challenge to Affirmative Action

"We will vigorously defend access and opportunity in higher education," said head of civil rights legal group.

Jessica Corbett ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.

Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo