Nestlé makes annual contribution to Erin

ERIN – All is well with Nestlé Waters’ Hillsburgh well, according to a Nestlé report to town council on May 7. 

The report was presented, along with a $34,703 cheque for the town’s community benefit fund, by Dr. Andreanne Simard, natural resources manager for Nestlé Waters Canada.

The annual voluntary donation represents 50 cents for each 1,000 litres of water the firm pumped from its Hillsburgh location in 2018.

“In addition to providing yearly scientific data to the Town of Erin for evidence-based groundwater management, the community benefit fund builds on a history of Nestlé Waters Canada partnering with Erin, for public spaces recycling on Main Street, the Erin Skate Park and other community projects,” said Simard.

Mayor Allan Alls expressed his thanks, saying, “The Community Benefit Fund provides the Town of Erin with a continuous and predictable revenue source … for community infrastructure or programming.”

Councillor Mike Robins said he was impressed with the company’s data sharing, but struggles with the fact that the water goes into plastic bottles, many of which are not recycled.

“I’d feel better if there was a surcharge,” he said. “The blue box system is not working.”

Environmental groups favour a bottle deposit system, while Nestlé and other beverage companies are opposed. The provincial government has not made a decision on the issue.

Councillor Rob Smith noted the town was having difficulty finding a reliable source of water for redundancy wells in the local fractured bedrock, but Simard said the Nestlé well was not the cause of the problem.

CAO Nathan Hyde said the town has finally found a good location for a new well.

“We have found water, and things are moving quite well,” he said.

Groundwater levels vary daily, seasonally and annually near the Nestlé well, depending on pumping and natural factors.

Simard presented 10 years of data showing that water taking at the Hillsburgh well has not caused a long-term decline in the Guelph aquifer water level.

The company gathers data from 50 points within 1.3km of the production well, including its own monitoring wells and private wells, as well as streams and wetlands.

“The monitoring data from over 18 years of operation in Erin show that there are no negative impacts to the long-term sustainability of the aquifer or ecosystem,” said Simard.

Nestlé’s permit allows it to pump up to 406 million litres per year at the well, but since 2000 it has rarely exceeded half of that amount. 

The company pumped 69.4 million litres in 2018, and the annual average over the past four years is 74.5 million.

The company applied for a renewal of its permit to take water in May 2017, but the provincial government placed a moratorium on permits and new wells while the system is under review. The Hillsburgh permit expired in August 2017, but it remains in effect during the review.

Nestlé wells in Aberfoyle and Hillsburgh are within the Guelph-Guelph/Eramosa Tier 3 Groundwater Model, which assesses cumulative impacts from wells on groundwater available for municipal supply. 

A Nestlé chart shows the 20 municipal wells that supply the Guelph area having a 91% impact. The Nestlé Aberfoyle well was at 1%, while its Hillsburgh well had no impact.

Simard said studies of the potential long-term impact of climate change using different scenarios show there will likely be an increase in the recharge of groundwater during the winter months, and relatively small changes to levels during the rest of the year.