Saturday, November 21, 2009

Foil Nestle in Aberfoyle

Never depend upon institutions or government to solve any problem. All social movements are founded by, guided by, motivated and seen through by the passion of individuals. - Margaret Mead

I'm using this quotation again because it fits a different issue that has more of a local impact to me. Nestle's water grab in Aberfoyle.

Here's the issue...

The Ontario Ministry of the Environment (MOE) issued a two-year Permit to Take Water (PTTW) to Nestle in 2001. It was renewed in 2003, 2005, and 2008. So Nestle can legally take water from Aberfoyle. But just because it's legal, doesn't make it right. As you might have seen in The Cove, governments and ministries sometimes get surreptitious payments or benefits of one kind or another if they'll allow activities to continue that aren't truly in the public's best interest. That's how lobbying sometimes works, even though it shouldn't. Now Nestle want to use a backup well to maximize their yield.

In 2005, Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Sustainable Water Resources Agreement was signed by Ontario. It strengthens the requirements for the government to ensure that water taken from the Great Lakes basin won't have any adverse impacts on any source watershed.

In 2006 a Clean Water Act was passed that ensures that communities can identify potential risks to their drinking water supplies, and take action to reduce these risks.

In 2007, neighbouring townships had watering bans and a Level 2 low-water condition in the area. Access to this public well would have alleviated this condition. It seems clear that the Nestle PTTW is inconsistent with the objectives of the agreements and acts passed by the provincial government. So concerned citizens petitioned to get the MOE to review the PTTW, and the ministry turned down the request because they didn't provide any technical, scientific or other evidence to indicate that the decision to issue the former permit was flawed.

Currently the MOE is supporting Nestle. They cleaned up some pollution, so the MOE is letting them expand. Very nice.

There was a recent letter to the editor by David Lunman expressing some concerns. Unfortunately he doesn't include his credentials or sources. He claims Nestle is pumping water faster than the aquifer can recover. Nestle hopes to take 3.6 million litres/day of groundwater.

Nestle was quick to reply (can't find a link, sorry). Their main point is that everything they're doing is legal and that the MOE is monitoring the well to ensure it's sustainable. Nestle doesn't want to dig a new well to get more water, but merely to sustain the levels currently taken. Nestle is currently taking 3.6 million litres/day.

According to one report, Nestle paid a one-time fee of $3,000 to access the well, and they are required to pay the province $3.71 for every million litres of water extracted, or about $14/day if they take their maximum allotment. Wellington Water Watchers estimated that if NestlĂ© bought that same amount through Guelph’s municipal water system, it would pay about $2,700 a day.

First of all, the fact that Nestle wants a new well to get the same water seems to belie the claim that the current well is actually sustainable. Curious.

But even stranger, how can the province sell our water to a private corporation for re-sale at all? I mean how many free lunches is John Gerretsen getting for letting a corporation rip-off his province? Or is it sadder than that. Is he being bullied by the brutes? If you're reading this, take a minute to e-mail him and ask him precisely that!

This Wellington Water Watchers have created a fantastic website. Take a minute to look around there. And, teachers, they have a great "Message in a Bottle" initiative for schools! I wish I had known before we ran our re-usable bottle campaign. And they have a handy form you can complete for more info, and suggest we boycott all things Nestle. Make sure you let Nestle know you're doing this too. It just takes a minute to write an e-mail.

Maude Barlow agrees. "There's a huge backlash on campuses and in some restaurants," claims Barlow. "The 'in' thing now is not to serve bottled water." This makes me all the more upset that we couldn't convince the Waterloo Regional District School Board to ban water bottles. They almost did, but bailed after one trustee thought kids would turn to pop instead, so they'd all get diabetes from not having access to bottles of water (regardless of the many water fountains in our schools).

In the movie FLOW, Barlow complained specifically about Nestle. They own 70 brands of water. In Michigan they're pumping at 450 gallons/minute – drying up the river beds and causing significant adverse impact. Citizens sued after much protest. Nestle hired a P.I. to harass citizens who signed the petition. Nestle lost the first round, but won on appeals. Now they have a right to pump where ever they want in the US, but at a slightly slower rate. Nestle leases the property from the city to do the pumping, so the city sees some money, but not much.

By 2020, half the world won’t have water. Even in the Roman Empire water was seen as a public right that can’t be privately owned or sold for profit. If diversion of water affects people it should be considered unlawful. Legally, in the U.S., it’s considered unconstitutional to stop water pumping unless you personally own property that’s being affected.

Dammit, let's make sure that doesn't happen in Canada too!

No comments: