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Province proposes one-year moratorium extension

One-year reprieve - The province has extended the moratorium on water bottling permits to Jan. 1, 2020, delaying for at least a year a decision on a Nestlé Waters well on this five-acre property on Middlebrook Road near Elora. The company is seeking an extension of a permit that would allow it to draw 1.6 million litres of water daily from the site.  Advertiser file photo

Province proposes one-year moratorium extension

by Chris Daponte

ELORA - It will be at least another year before the province makes a decision on a proposed Nestlé Waters Canada well on Middlebrook Road.

On Oct. 30 the Ontario government announced its plan to extend the moratorium on new water bottling permits to Jan. 1, 2020.

During the moratorium the province will review “water quantity science, policies, and programs,” particularly “the use of groundwater to produce bottled water,” states the website of the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP).

The province has indicated its review will include the impact of drought conditions, growth and climate change on communities that depend on groundwater.

Donna McCaw of Save Our Water called Nestlé Waters’ proposed well just outside Elora “a huge threat to the community.”

She said the local activist organization, which supported Centre Wellington Township’s call in June for a four-year extension of the moratorium, is “happy” with the shorter reprieve.

“Certainly one year is a good step forward,” said McCaw. “We want the watershed protected ... we want environmentally sound decisions made here.”

Wellington Water Watchers, which has called for a complete phase out of water bottling permits, is encouraging Ontarians to comment on the proposed moratorium on the Environmental Registry website until Nov. 29.

“The Ontario government must ensure that water remains a public trust, and we can’t let drinking water be in the corporate control of corporations like Nestle,” stated Water Watchers chairman Rob Case in a press release.

Nestlé Waters’ corporate affairs director Jennifer Kerr said the company, which is seeking an extension of the Middlebrook site’s permit to draw 300 gallons of water per minute (1.6 million litres per day), welcomed the moratorium extension.

“We support the ministry’s need to let science and fact dictate its decision-making process,” Kerr stated in an email to the Advertiser.

She added “critical data needed to make decisions about groundwater usage can only be garnered by conducting aquifer tests.

“These are necessary to ... make informed decisions that will ultimately protect our water as the region continues to grow.”

The moratorium, first introduced two years ago by the previous Liberal government, does not impact existing permits for water bottling operations, but it does prohibit new permits, even for pumping tests, and it bans  existing water bottlers from exceeding existing permit limits.

“We will consider the results of the review and engage Indigenous communities, stakeholders and the public on any potential improvements to our water taking rules before they are put in place,” states the MECP website.

 Centre Wellington Mayor Kelly Linton said he is “pretty happy” with the one-year moratorium and the speed with which the province has acted on the file.

“At the local level, municipalities aren’t really sure what to expect (from the new provincial government),” said Linton.

He explained an extension of the moratorium will allow the township more time to complete its Scoped Tier 3 Water Budget and its Long-Term Water Supply Master Plan.

McCaw noted the moratorium will also provide Save Our Water “another year to prepare and get the word out.”

McCaw said the local municipal well system is “challenged as it is,” and her group is concerned Nestlé’s Middlebrook well, if approved, would effectively “wipe out” a large portion of west Elora as a potential site for a new municipal well.

Yet officials with Nestlé Waters, which currently operates wells in Puslinch and Erin, have stated the company’s research shows no long-term adverse affects on the quantity/quality of local groundwater.

“We are confident that the outcome of the ministry’s assessment will support the rigorous scientific evaluations Nestlé Waters Canada has conducted over the years,” stated Kerr.

“In the meantime, we remain committed to working collaboratively with all levels of government and Indigenous partners. We will continue to operate according to the rules set out by the [MECP].”

Wellington-Halton Hills MPP Ted Arnott stressed that any decisions on water taking permits need to be based on scientific evidence.

“I want to ensure [my constituents’] concerns are heard,” Arnott told the Advertiser, noting the moratorium will provide more opportunity for public input.

He added, “I hope that there’s continued protection of our ground water resources.”

Linton, while pleased with the moratorium, said the province still needs to make a final decision on permits.

“We still want to make sure the water taking regime is changed so that municipalities are given priority ...  this doesn’t do any of that,” Linton said.

“It just takes a little bit of the pressure off.”

McCaw agreed municipalities should be given priority over corporations when it comes to the local water supply.

“Is it really just a first come, first served, take-it-if-you-want-it situation?” McCaw asked.

Kerr stressed Nestlé Waters remains committed to working with the province and local municipalities to protect groundwater.

“[The] decision from the government will have no impact on our commitment to the communities in which we live and work, or our dedication to health and sustainability of our shared water resources,” she stated.

The province is seeking feedback from Ontarians on the proposed one-year moratorium at the Environmental Registry website ( under ERO number 013-3974.

The 30-day commenting period ends Nov. 29 at 11:59pm.

*With files from Phil Gravelle

November 9, 2018


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