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Nestlé continues to draw water in Aberfoyle 262 days after its permit expired

On September 22, 2016, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow announced our Boycott Nestlé campaign. To date, 51,855 people have signed this pledge.

Ontario residents are waiting for a critical decision to be made by Premier Kathleen Wynne on the bottled water industry after the provincial government held a series of consultations on this issue over the past several months.

One consultation related to a moratorium on new or expanded bottled water operations. We helped to generate thousands of submissions emphasizing that a permanent moratorium was needed, but the government has only implemented a two-year moratorium.

Another consultation related to the fees that bottled water companies pay to pump water. We generated thousands of submissions saying that no amount of money is worth allowing companies to bottle and sell water, but the government announced it would raise the fee to one-twentieth of a penny a litre of water taken.

There is also the outstanding question of renewing permits for existing bottled water operations. The thousands of submissions we helped generate on this highlighted our demand that current permits should be phased out.

Overall, we helped generate more than 20,000 submissions to the Ontario government on these critical questions.

The clock is now ticking for it to make some real decisions.

Nestlé’s permit to pump 3.6 million litres of water a day from Aberfoyle expired on July 31, 2016, but the company has been allowed to continue — 262 days after their permit expired! — to extract water while the government considers their application. In other words, since the expiry of their permit last summer, Nestlé has taken more than 500 million litres of water from the Aberfoyle well.

Furthermore, Nestlé’s current permit to extract 1.1 million litres of water per day from Hillsburgh expires on August 31, 2017.

Thousands of people have clearly told the province their concerns about the bottled water industry, but questions remain:

1- Nestlé has applied for a 10-year renewal of its now expired 5-year permit to extract 3.6 million litres of water a day from a well in Aberfoyle. What will the Ontario government decide on this and when?

2- Given Nestlé just maneuvered to have the Town of Erin accept annual funding for the water extracted from the local Hillsburgh well, the company is clearly interested in renewing that permit too. What will the Ontario government decide when that permit expires in August? Will months pass without a decision on this too?

3- And while the two-year moratorium on new bottled water operations put a hold on Nestlé’s plan to extract water from a well in Elora, what will happen as of January 1, 2019 when that moratorium expires?

A provincial election is scheduled to be held in Ontario on or before June 7, 2018. Now is the time to demand better from the government.