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Nestl Waters Canada Hillsburgh production well permit extended for five years

by Mike Robinson

ERIN

Nestlé Waters Canada, recently announced it has received a five-year permit renewal to draw water at its Hillsburgh production well.

The permit, which expires on Aug. 31, 2017, allows Nestlé Waters to draw 204 gallons a minute, on average, over a 30-day period, which is unchanged from what the company was permitted to draw in its previous permit.

The Ministry of Environment’s technical review filed with the environmental registry concluded the continuation of the water taking at Erin is sustainable for a five-year term and poses no threat to other users or groundwater resources.

The permit contains strict conditions to protect existing water users and safeguard the natural environment. The ministry will continue to closely oversee Nestlé’s water taking to ensure it is carefully managed.

Nestlé will be permitted to draw up to 250 gallons a minute between Apr. 1 and Sept. 30 in each of the next five years as long as its monthly average equates to 204 gallons a minute or less over that same five-month period.

Over the last 12-month period, an annual report filed with Ontario Ministry of Environment indicates that the Company drew about 40 per cent  of the spring water it is permitted to take under the terms and conditions of its permit. This figure has remained within the 13% to 70% range since Nestlé Waters purchased the well in 2000. The well has been in production since 1988.

“The current permit provides additional flexibility to deal with the day-to-day demands on our business during the spring and summer months without compromise to the long term sustainability of the local water resource,” explained Don DeMarco, Natural Resources Manager, Nestlé Waters Canada. “Our long term monitoring program has now been in place for more than a decade and indicates that withdrawals from the deep bedrock aquifer are sustainable. We’re really getting to understand the system and will continue to manage our business accordingly to ensure we meet our monthly and annual limit obligations to MOE, the Grand River Conservation Authority and our neighbours.”

Though not unexpected, it  was not the decision, Friends of Hillsburgh Water had hoped for.

A recent news release from the group stated “Very quietly on Friday Sept. 28, the Ministry of Environment of Ontario posted its long-awaited decision on Nestlé Canada Inc.’s request for renewal of its permit to take water in Hillsburgh to its Environmental Registry web site.”

The release sent by Liz Armstrong stated “The company was granted a five-year license to take up to 1.113 million litres of water 24-hours a day, 365 days per year, with an allowed spike rate of 1,362 million litres per day. Nestlé had sought a longer permit – 10 years - but was otherwise granted nearly all it requested, with the allowable daily maximum the same as its previous five-year license issued in 2007.”

Armstrong noted there was a great deal of citizen opposition in the Town of Erin and elsewhere along the water trucking route to this permit renewal, reflected in a total of 798 written and posted comments submitted to the MOE.

“One of the key objections, since the Permit to Take Water (PTTW) process focuses solely on water taking, was that other environmental and health concerns were not considered at all – wear-and-tear on local roads, 24/7 operation 365 days per year, air and noise pollution impacting residents on the route from Hillsburgh to Nestlé’s filling plant in Aberfoyle, and the issue of hundreds of millions of plastic bottles made from fossil fuels discarded as waste every year.”

“From my perspective, this is yet another example of the power of big money to sway government decisions,” commented Christopher Green, Friends of Hillsburgh Water.

“The renewal of this permit, following a summer of extreme drought raises some serious questions about the role of the Ministry of Environment in protecting our common resources. I’m starting to think that environmental regulations are more for regulating environmentalists than anything else.”

Wellington Water Watchers Chair Mike Nagy, “We took the position after the 2011 renewal of Nestlé’s Aberfoyle permit that participating in the Environmental Bill of Rights process is just plain futile. At that point, we partnered with the Council of Canadians to submit a Request for Review (RFR) of the PTTW process in March this year, describing the many ways these permits for commercial water bottling fly in the face of the MOE’s own Statements of Environmental Values; for example, not considering all the environmental impacts of decisions like this, which are much more wide-ranging than just the water-taking. Our request for review was denied by the MOE. It does little to provide Ontarians clarity on how decisions are made or how they can participate in a meaningful way.”

In March 2012, Wellington Water Watchers and the Council of Canadians applied to the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario for a review of the Ontario Water Resources Act, O. Reg. 387/04, Water Taking, as it pertains to the permitting of water bottling operations in Ontario.

The Ministry considered the application in accordance with Part IV of the Environmental Bill of Rights and declined the requested review.

The request for review submitted to the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario was considered. The request for review contained comments made with regard to the ministry’s Statement of Environmental Values; however, they referred to, among other things noise, pollution, and waste, and not directly about water impacts. As well, the submission was not specific to this application.

In a later telephone interview with the Wellington Advertiser, Nestle Waters Canada’s Director, Corporate Affairs John Challinor explained that companies are always seeking business certainties - for as long as possible.

He noted that while the permit was less than what the company had applied for, it did match the duration previously approved.

Plus, he said, no additional conditions were set.

Challinor added that the ‘spike’ rates were approved between April to September providing the company did not exceed the draw of 204 gallons a minute, on average, over a 30-day period.

That restriction, he noted, was unchanged from the company’s previous permit to draw water.

The Hillsburgh well has been in use since 1988 and the water used for bottled water customers.

The facility is in operation year round, but Challinor said the draw from the well is dependent on company requirements which are lighter at certain times of the year.

He added that currently Nestlé operates just two wells in Wellington County - Aberfoyle and Hillsburgh.

As to claims on the impact to traffic, Challinor says there are none.

He said measures are ongoing to ensure reduced travel noise created by trucks.

“Our truckers use premium quality trucks which are more quiet and safe.”

He also stated that the drivers do follow speed limits as they travel county and regional roads between Hillsburgh and Aberfoyle.

He stressed the company also responds to complaints lodged by the community.

Yet, Challinor said, he had not heard a traffic complaint from local residents in nearly a year.

“We take community concerns very seriously.”

At the same time, he considered Nestlé trucks as only a small portion of the truck traffic.

“If there were 100 trucks on the road, our company trucks would represent less than one.”

He stressed that if the public has concerns “they can call us.”

For further information, on Nestlé Waters see www.nestle-watersna.com or contact John B. Challinor II   APR, Director, Corporate Affairs Nestle Waters Canada at 1-888-565-1445, ext. 6441 or email: john.challinor@waters.nestle.com

Vol 45 Issue 42

October 19, 2012

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