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Nestlé settlement not in the public interest, says Environmental Review Tribunal

The Wellington Water Watchers, Ecojustice and the Council of Canadians are celebrating a tribunal ruling that rejects a deal between Nestlé and the Ontario Ministry of Environment (MoE) that would have removed restrictions on Nestlé’s water withdrawals during times of drought.

The Environmental Review Tribunal decided that the settlement agreement between Nestlé and the MoE is not in the public interest and is inconsistent with the Ontario Water Resources Act, and is going forward with a hearing.

The MoE and Nestlé had reached a deal in February that would permit water withdrawals from an underground aquifer in Wellington County during low water conditions. The agreement stems from Nestlé’s appeal of a MoE ruling requiring them to reduce their water takings during droughts.

Nestlé withdraws 1.13 million litres of water per day from a well in Wellington County, which they then bottle and sell.

The ruling calls for a full hearing on the original appeal, which the non-profit groups will be actively preparing for in the coming weeks and months.

“We are very happy that our concerns, which we have voiced for over seven years, are now being heard,” says Mike Nagy, chair of the Wellington Water Watchers. “We believe that a hearing is a positive step forward in allowing for meaningful public participation and discussion regarding the many issues surrounding this permit and threats to the groundwater.”

“This is great day for groundwater protection in Canada,” says Will Amos, Director of the Ecojustice Clinic at the University of Ottawa. “And we are looking forward to the full hearing in the coming months.”

“We are thrilled with the Tribunal’s ruling. Ontario has the potential to be a leader in groundwater protection across the country, and this is a promising step forward,” says Emma Lui of the Council of Canadians. “We need a shift in decision making so that water is recognized as a human right and drinking water and community use are prioritized over industry use.”

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