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Nestle Waters seeking back-up wells in Aberfoyle, Hillsburgh

by Chris Daponte


Nestlé Wat­ers Canada is again looking for a secondary water source in Puslinch, but councillors are con­cerned about the property chosen and how the company has handled the announcement of its plan.

John Challinor, director of corporate affairs, told council on Nov. 4 Nestlé Waters is investigating the possibility of a back-up well on Gilmour Road. The property is owned by the water bottling company and located about 1,500 metres from its plant on BrockRoad.

While the move will require an amendment to its current water-taking permit, which ex­pires April 30, 2011, Challinor stressed Nestlé is not requesting approval to take more water.  Its current permit allows the daily extraction of up to 3.6 million litres. On average, Challinor noted, the company ex­tracts about 60% of that total.

“We see no need to request additional water taking for the foreseeable future,” he said. “This is a risk management issue.” He noted the Aberfoyle plant is one of only two in North America without a back-up source for its primary well.

But Puslinch Mayor Brad Whitcombe called the Gilmour Road property a “very difficult site” on which to locate a well.

He explained a 1996 at­tempt by Aberfoyle Springs president BobElliott to locate a well on the same property “came to a dramatic end” when Fisheries and Oceans Canada ruled the well could have a negative impact on a local cold water fishery.

Whitcombe also noted there is a lot of public concern about the water bottling industry and said a narrow road allowance  could make it difficult to install a pipeline from the well to Nestlé’s plant.

“I hope and expect Nestlé Waters will take all these complexities into account,” Whit­combe said.

Challinor replied the 1996 proposal by Aberfoyle Springs was for a shallow well that could have had an impact on the fishery, but the well proposed by Nestlé Waters will be located in an aquifer that is deeper than others in the area.

A statement issued by the company on Nov. 3 states it “will complete all local, pro­vincial and national regulatory requirements” as part of the process.

“If there’s an impact we will not proceed any further,” Challinor vowed to council, adding the company voluntarily ended its previous search for a secondary well on Victoria Road.

Nestlé abandoned that search last summer after testing could not conclude if the water was coming from the Lake Erie basin or the Lake Ontario basin. According to the Great Lakes Charter An­nex of 2001, Nestlé is permitted to draw wat­er only from the same basin from which it produces its products.

The company announced its new plans for a well on Gil­mour Road at a public information session on Nov. 3 at Springfield Golf and Country Club on Gordon Street.

Yet several councillors took exception to advertising for the event, as well as letters sent to Gilmour Road residents, neither of which mentioned the plans for a secondary well. They say if that information was included, far more than a dozen people would have at­tended that meeting.

“The public trust is washing away faster than water can flow out of one of your bottles,” councillor Matthew Bul­mer said sternly. He agreed with fellow councillor Susan Fielding the ads were very “am­biguous” and said the letters to residents were even less helpful.

Letters were sent to Gil­mour Road residents the day before the meeting and neither the township nor the members of the newly established well protection committee - Bulmer, resident Dianne Paron, and  Alan Dale of the Grand River Conservation Authority - were among the recipients.

“I’m concerned you’re trying to wiggle out of a very basic responsibility,” Bulmer said.

Challinor said Nestlé Wat­ers is not trying to wiggle out of anything; the company just did not feel prepared to share all of the details of its proposal in the ads. He said the letter went out late because Nestlé did not have all the addresses for Gilmour Road residents.

“We recognize our responsibility,” Challinor said, adding that for future meetings the com­pany will provide at least two weeks notice for affected residents. Of the late notice for last week’s meeting, he added, “It’s a miss, and we’ve corrected it.”

Nestlé Waters sent another letter on Nov. 5 to about 475 homes, informing residents the evaluation of the secondary well proposal begins later this month. The letter also asks residents to forward information pertaining to their “preferred method of communication.”

Councillor Don McKay said while he understands Bul­mer’s concerns, the meeting was well advertised and residents interested in Nestlé Wat­ers matters should take it upon themselves to attend such meet­ings. He also lauded the com­pany’s work within the com­munity, calling it a “good corporate citizen.”

Challinor told council Nest­lé will hold another public meeting in February or March on the results of the evaluation, which includes drilling test wells - on Nestlé’s property and on private property by re­quest - and pump tests in the spring.

But Whitcombe said waiting that long for another meeting could create a “hostile” audience.

“They’re going to read the Advertiser and they’re going to read the [Puslinch] Pioneer,” the mayor said. He noted the interest surrounding the bottled water industry seems magnified in  rural communities like Puslinch, where residents are responsible for their own water source.

“You need it to continue a business, but they need it to take a bath, flush a toilet, or have a glass of water,”  Whitcombe told Challinor.

“[Council’s] role in this is to maintain the public trust and look out for the public interest.”

Nestlé will consider an earlier meeting, Challinor said, but he noted there currently is not a lot to share on the matter, because it is very early in the process. He is aware of the amount of interest and scrutiny placed on Nestlé, and said the company will spend a considerable amount of time and money to ensure there are no negative impacts before proceeding with a secondary well.

Bulmer said Dennis Ger­man, Nestlé’s Natural Re­sourc­es Manager, did a fine job of answering questions at the Nov. 3 meeting. All Bulmer wants is for all nearby residents to be afforded the same opportunity for answers as the few who were at that meeting.

Challinor said Nestlé re­mains committed to ensuring residents, the township, and Puslinch’s hydrogeologist Stan Denhoed are kept informed.

* * *

In an interview onNov. 6 Challinor indicated NestléWaters is also seeking a secon­dary well near Hillsburgh, on the same 200-acre property its current well there is located.

He said that process is also in the very early stages, with plans to drill a monitoring well on the property - and on nearby lands by request - in the next few weeks.

Nestlé’s current Hillsburgh permit allows it to extract up to 1.1 million litres of water per day, but Challinor said on av­erage the company actually ex­tracts just 25% of that amount.

That permit expires in 2012 and the company is not seeking am extraction increase.

Like the Aberfoyle investigation, Challinor said it will likely be a year before the company makes a decision about whether or not to proceed with the back-up well in Hillsburgh.

Last month Nestlé held  meetings with nearby landowners and Erin town staff.


Vol 42 Issue 46



Wellington North Guide 2017-2018

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