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Council of Canadians set to battle Nestle’s expansion plans in southern Ontario


Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow will be visiting Elora, Ontario later this month to speak against the Middlebrook Water Company being purchased by Nestle Waters.

On September 21, the Guelph Mercury 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.”

Then on September 25, the Wellington Advertiser reported, “[Simard] explained Nestle applied for the ‘aquifer test’ in July to the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC), which is responsible for posting the application on the EBR [Environmental Bill of Rights] registry for public comment. Pending approval, Simard said the test, scheduled for November, will include up to 30 days of testing at a volume of 300 US gallons per minute – and possibly an additional 30 days if subsequent quality testing is needed. The water will be discharged into the Grand River.”

That article also notes 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.

The Guelph Mercury article highlights, “Since the spring, the company’s presence in the Elora area has generated much concern and protest. The group Save Our Water formed to oppose the company’s move to evaluate the Middlebrook well as a viable source of water for its bottling plant in Aberfoyle.” The Council of Canadians Wellington-Centre was also formed in June of this year to oppose Nestle. “Opponents of Nestlé have expressed concerns that the company’s water-taking operations could potentially deplete the drinking water supply, and could contaminate wells in the vicinity.”

On August 6, the newspaper reported, “Donna McCaw is a member of the group Friends of Elora Water [now renamed Save Our Water] and they are opposed to Nestle’s expansion plans. She said that Elora falls under provincial Places to Grow legislation and the village is expected to grow to a small city in the next 20 years. She said the municipality currently uses 1.7 million litres of water a day for its citizens and Nestle is proposing to take 1.6 million litres a day. ‘That is our future need. The well is our future source of water’, she said. …McCaw said the group wants the province to put a moratorium on water-taking permits in Centre Wellington until the township can prepare a water use master plan.”

Local politicians appear to agree. By August 24, the Guelph Mercury 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. …Mayor Kelly Linton said he is also concerned about the water quality and quantity for citizens in Centre Wellington and he urged council to agree to meeting with the Minister. Coun. Fred Morris said Nestle should be subject to a Tier 3 study, which is more comprehensive. ‘And there should be no commercial extraction of water until those studies are done’, he said.”

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.

Nestle’s water taking permit in Aberfoyle is set to expire July 31, 2016.

More on Barlow’s visit to Elora soon.

Further reading
Nestlé continues to stir community opposition in the Great Lakes Basin (July 2015 blog by Emma Lui)
WIN! Council successfully challenges Nestle permit for water takings during drought conditions (October 2013 blog)
Stop Nestle Canada’s request for a 10-year water permit in Guelph! (March 2011 action alert by Emma Lui)