The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Kate Fried, Food & Water Watch (202) 683-2500

Shapleigh Stops Poland Springs' Spigot

The people of Shapleigh, Maine voted overwhelmingly Saturday to halt Nestle's
water mining activities. The vote represents a community victory
against the multinational company's plans to develop new water sources
for its Poland Springs bottling brand in Maine.


The people of Shapleigh, Maine voted overwhelmingly Saturday to halt Nestle's
water mining activities. The vote represents a community victory
against the multinational company's plans to develop new water sources
for its Poland Springs bottling brand in Maine.

Residents, water activists, and journalists flooded the elementary
school cafeteria where residents voted 204 to 38 for a six-month
moratorium on water extraction. The moratorium is intended to provide
time for the town to draft and approve a comprehensive water protection
ordinance regulating water testing and large-scale pumping. The town
also shot down Nestle's request for access to a 150 acre parcel of town
land to drill up to 15 test wells this coming spring to determine
whether it was as an adequate site to install a new well-head.
Residents stomped down the testing proposal 183 to 43.

In 2006 Nestle received permission from the Maine Department of
Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to sink bore wells in the Vernon Walker
Wildlife Management Area, land that Shapleigh and the neighboring town
of Newfield both share. Nestle's initial interest was to sign a bulk
water extraction contract with the State of Maine for water underneath
Vernon Walker. When the state offered a price too high for Nestle, the
corporation turned to the town of Shapleigh across the road.

Nestle Poland Springs already draws water from eight sites across
the state of Maine, reporting that it drained 700 million gallons of
groundwater last year. Nestle operates the largest spring
water-bottling plant in North America in the rural town of Hollis, 25
miles east northeast of Shapleigh.

Citizen groups have sprung up in response to Nestle's aggressive bid
for water contracts in pristine rural communities tucked among the
mountains, rivers and ponds of Southern Maine. In Shapleigh, community
members formed a grassroots organization, Protecting Our Water &
Wildlife Resources (POWWR) with the mission to keep water in the hands
of the citizens that use it simply to live. One of POWWR's main
concerns is the effect of Nestle's bulk water extraction on the local
wildlife habitat, water quality, and water sustainability for future
generations. Speaking on POWWR's contribution to the Shapleigh
victory, chair member Ann Winn-Wentworth said, "Nestle has coined our
group as 'small and very vocal' but our purpose is to educate voters on
the facts. The residents of Shapleigh voted [Saturday], sending a
resounding message that they are not ready for Nestle to move in. We
want to see this statewide.

Now that Nestle has been defeated in
Shapleigh, citizens and local water activists fear future encroachment
of Nestle on the Vernon Walker site managed by the Inland Fisheries and
Wildlife. A water-mining contract with Nestle might seem lucrative to
the government agency struggling with insufficient funds. However
bottling companies do not really cover the various costs to local
communities or what happens when the water is gone. According to
analysis by the consumer advocacy organization Food and Water Watch,
jobs created by these bottling plants are seasonal, low paying and
often go to people outside of the community. The constant roar of
trucks leaving and entering the bottling plant has an impact on the
quality of life of these rural communities.

In June, Food & Water Watch partnered with Defending Water in
Maine and other local allies to protest Nestle's proposed 30-year
contract with the nearby town of Wells. On July 18th, the Kennebunk,
Kennebunkport, and Wells Water (KKW) District decided to "infinitely
table" Nestle's proposal which would have drained 500,000 gallons of
water a day from the town's fragile ecosystem.

"The extraction
of any community's water for sale has the potential to create a
crisis," said Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water
Watch. "As communities enter into contracts with companies that
extract water, it could become difficult for states and local
governments to regulate water removal. Nestle threatens the local
people and businesses' of Maine and their right to use their public
water resource reasonably for drinking, growing food and other
activities in the community."

At the state level, a coalition
of activists and citizens are collaborating to develop legislation
protecting groundwater across Maine. A press rally in Portland last
Wednesday marked the kick off for an initiative to protect Maine's
groundwater supplies from corporate bulk water extraction. At the
rally, state Rep. Rick Burns of Berwick announced that he has submitted
a bill in the Legislature called "An Act to Protect Maine's
Groundwater." Over the summer, Maine communities brewed over the
question of local groundwater extraction. As the first frost falls,
the state continues to bubble over the question of who will control the
future of local water.

Food & Water Watch mobilizes regular people to build political power to move bold and uncompromised solutions to the most pressing food, water, and climate problems of our time. We work to protect people's health, communities, and democracy from the growing destructive power of the most powerful economic interests.

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