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More Bad Press for Nestlé in their Quest to Pilfer Spring Water

Opposition to the beverage giant's inroads in rural communities is gaining steam.
 
 
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Rural communities beware. Although we've reported it before, Nestlé's attack on rural communities and the corporation's pilfering of spring water has made the news again -- this time in Business Week. In "A Town Torn Apart: How a deal for a bottled water plant set off neighbor against neighbor in struggling McCloud, Cailf.," Michelle Conlin explains how the small NorCal town is fighting to keep the world's largest food and beverage company from taking their spring water.

It is here that Nestlé Waters North America (NWNA), a subsidiary of the Swiss food and beverage giant, plans to operate one of the largest spring-water bottling plants in the U.S. The 1 million-square-foot facility -- picture five Wal-Mart supercenters strung together -- is to rise on the site of McCloud's defunct lumber mill, a 250-acre swath of land that bends around the base of the mountain. Nestlé aims to draw 1,250 gallons a minute of water from McCloud's glacier-fed springs. The company would then pack 300 semi-trailers a day full of Arrowhead brand water, truck it as far away as Los Angeles and Reno, and sell it at prices that are as much as 1,000 times more than the cost of tap water. In exchange, Nestlé has agreed to pay McCloud roughly $350,000 a year for the water and create up to 240 jobs in and around the town.

The plan was made with the company by district board members behind closed doors and with no public input. McCloud, a town on the economic mend, apparently was looking for someone to fill the shoes of the departed lumber industry. But it seems like the board members weren't all that sure what they were getting into with Nestlé, considering their track record in other towns in Michigan and Maine. And according to this article, they couldn't afford to hire a lawyer to look over the paperwork.

When the town found out about the deal, there was a great deal of concern, followed by anger and then action.

Nestlé Waters has run into a wall of opposition, prompting it to delay construction and resubmit its environmental permit application. Since learning about the bottling plant, nearly half of McCloud's 1,300 residents have mobilized into a well-armed resistance force. Furious that their elected representatives inked the deal without consulting them and worried about the potential impact the plant could have on Mount Shasta's delicate local hydrology, they have ordered up studies, signed up wealthy backers, and lobbied politicians.

The Business Week story lightly touches on the growing movement against bottled water -- the "tappening" movement and includes some info after the end of the article from Food and Water Watch's Wenonah Hauter dispelling myths about how some erroneously believe all bottled water is better than tap as well as figures about the environmental footprint of bottled water. It would have been good to see that info built into the story, but at least it was there ... somewhere. Overall it is good to see this information about water privatization making it to more mainstream media.

Tara Lohan is a managing editor at AlterNet.

 
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