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Centre Wellington chapter hosts Maude Barlow talk opposing Nestle in Elora

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow spoke to about 300 people in Elora, Ontario this evening against the Middlebrook Water Company being purchased by Nestle Waters.

Barlow tweeted earlier this evening, “Big crowd in Fergus/Elora! Fighting a Nestle water taking!” Then Ontario-Quebec organizer Mark Calzavara posted on Facebook, “Huge crowd at our Centre Wellington chapter event with Maude Barlow. Council supporters here from over an hour away!” And the chapter just posted, “An incredible crowd out to hear the extraordinary Maude Barlow, of the Council of Canadians, the enthusiastic Wellington Water Watchers and the dedicated Save Our Water. What a night!!!”

In terms of background on this issue, the Guelph Mercury has reported, “If acquired, Middlebrook would act as a supplementary source of water for [Nestle’s] Aberfoyle factory, meaning that if Nestlé expands its water-bottling operation, Middlebrook water would be trucked in to increase the water supply. Middlebrook would also allow the company some flexibility if it chose to shut down its Aberfoyle well. …Middlebrook’s permit, which expires at the end of October, allows water-taking at a rate of 300 US gallons per minute. If Nestlé goes ahead with Middlebrook it would need to acquire a new permit, but would not seek to take more water than the current permit allows, [Nestle Waters natural resources manager Andreanne] Simard said.”

The Wellington Advertiser has highlighted that while Nestle’s director of corporate affairs John Challinor stated the company “would use the well when our primary production well in Aberfoyle has to be shut down for maintenance or… an emergency”, Simard says the Middlebrook well would “support future business growth” in addition to a back-up function.

Our Wellington Centre chapter was formed in June of this year to oppose the Nestle expansion. Along with Save Our Water and other allies, they have expressed concern that Nestle’s proposed water-taking operations could deplete the drinking water supply for the growing population in the area and that wells in the vicinity could be contaminated.

They appear to have the support of their city council. The Guelph Mercury has reported, “Centre Wellington Council voted unanimously to ask [Progressive Conservative] MPP Ted Arnott to help arrange a meeting with the [Liberal] Minister and Deputy Minister of the Environment to discuss their concerns over Nestle Waters Canada’s application to take water from a site in Elora.”

The Council of Canadians has previously raised concerns about Nestle’s water-taking business in Aberfoyle, where it has a permit to take up to 600 gallons of water per minute, and in Hillsburgh, where it can take 200 gallons of water per minute. Elora is about 42 kilometres from Aberfoyle, while Hillsburgh is about 51 kilometres from Aberfoyle. In 2008, the Council of Canadians Guelph chapter and Wellington Water Watchers campaigned against Nestle and succeeded in at least reducing Nestle’s requested permit (from 5 years to 2 years) and requiring the company to do extensive monitoring on the impact of their water takings. In 2013, the two groups, with legal representation from Ecojustice, successfully fought against an Ontario Ministry of Environment decision to remove conditions that made it mandatory for Nestle to reduce its water takings in Hillsburgh during droughts.

Further reading
Council of Canadians set to battle Nestle’s expansion plans in southern Ontario (October 2015 blog)

Photos by Mark Calzavara and the Centre Wellington chapter.