Maine Community Rebuffs Nestlé Over Water Rights

The water bottling giant has been dealt yet another set-back by the grassroots.

After an extended grassroots campaign, Nestlé is finally removing 23 bottled water test wells from a wildlife management area in Shapleigh and Newfield, ME.

Shelly Gobielle and her neighbors first discovered the wells a year and a half ago, three years after Nestlé's under-the-radar installation. Upon realizing that Shapleigh was likely one of the next site for Nestlé's water extraction for its Poland Spring brand bottled water, residents approached town officials with their concerns about what bottling would do to the local ecosystem. Their words fell on deaf ears, as Nestlé had already lobbied for and secured the support of the Shapleigh town officials.   

The only option was for residents to take matters into their own hands, forming the group Protect Our Water and Wildlife Resources (POWWR). Members hit the streets and went door to door educating the public and signing enough petitions to call a town meeting, held four months ago.

Residents in both Shapleigh and the neighboring town of Newfield passed ordinances that asserted the right of townspeople to control their own water and to prohibit commercial water extraction, a reality that can at last be assured.  

A heartfelt congratulations are due to Shelly, POWWR members, and the residents of Shapleigh and Newfield who volunteered their time and immense energy to protecting their water resources.  

This is a watershed moment, so to speak, in the effort to restore local control over water. Earlier this month another community group, the Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation, secured a major court victory against Nestlé after nine years of legal battles and Nestlé appeals. The settlement requires Nestlé to dramatically reduce pumping during summer months at a critical well site in Northern Michigan, and prohibits the corporation from increasing pumping levels in the future.  

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Leslie Samuelrich is the Deputy Director of Corporate Accountability International.