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A Deer Park water bottle sits on a beach.  (Photo: Dan Century/flickr/cc)

We 'Slayed the Dragon': Community Wins as Nestle Drops Water Extraction Plans

Victory for Monroe County, Penn. community comes on heels of another loss of bottled water giant in Ore.

Andrea Germanos

After facing community resistance, bottled beverage giant Nestlé Waters North America this week ditched its plans to extract water from a Monroe County, Penn. spring.

The plan would have seen Nestlé take 200,000 gallons of water per day from the source in Kunkletown, located in Eldred Township, and truck it away daily to a nearby plant where it would have been bottled under its Deer Park brand.

The plans for the water grab, helped by the municipality, which may have improperly adopted a corporate-friendly ordinance, had drawn the ire of many local residents, who celebrated the development.

"This entire village of Kunkletown came together and slayed the dragon, and it's something to be proud of," Eldred Township resident Donna Deihl told the Allentown Morning Call.

The change in plans was announced at a township supervisors meeting Wednesday, during which Eric Andreus, a hydrogeologist for Nestlé, said (pdf) the company faced "logistical and design challenges."

He also acknowledged local opposition, adding, "it is clear to us that the community in Eldred Township does not believe the process around this project worked the way it was intended and that many of you have concerns about this project," adding, "We have not been successful in gaining the same acceptance here in Eldred Township as we have in other communities that host our operations."

When the announcement came, "The room went crazy," Deihl said. "We clapped, we applauded, standing ovation. We cried."

The news comes less than a month after voters in Hood River County, Ore. stopped a years-long attempt by Nestlé to extract up to 100 million gallons a year of Oxbow Springs water and bottle it under the Arrowhead brand.

Indeed, as Alexis Bonogofsky previously reported, "Kunkletown residents' effort to keep Nestlé out of their community is not an isolated or parochial fight. Nestlé, which has the largest share of the bottled water market in the United States, is looking to secure and privatize water resources in the U.S. and around the world."

One such place the corporation is taking water is in drought-stricken California.  Activists are gearing up for a rally outside a federal courthouse in Riverside, Calif. where a judge will consider a challenge to Nestlé's water-bottling pipeline in the San Bernardino National Forest.  "Why should Nestlé — the largest food and beverage company in the U.S. — get to operate a huge bottled water operation on a permit that's been expired for 30 years during a historic drought when it's causing what used to be a perennial stream that wildlife use to go dry?" said Ileene Anderson, senior scientist and public lands deserts director at the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the groups behind the legal challenge.

Addressing such battles, Charles Pierce wrote at Esquire last month, " If there is one element that cannot be turned over to whatever people believe market forces to be, it's water. It should never be commodified or sold off to make some investor wealthy far from the people who need it. That this ever needs to be argued is a measure of how far we've allowed corporate power to change us as a nation," he wrote.


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