Opposition to Nestlé Waters Canada water bottling operations in the Guelph area is longstanding. In recent months it has gained momentum, as the company looks to extend its pumping operations to wells in the Elora area, seeks a 10-year extension on its permit to take water in Aberfoyle, south of the city, and will soon engage in a renewal process for its permit in Hillsburgh.
Further efforts are in progress to add to the opposition. Local groups are meeting on the evening of Tuesday, June 21, 6-9 p.m. to coordinate further measures. The gathering is at Harcourt Memorial United Church, 87 Dean Ave. in the city.
Robert Case is a member of the board of Wellington Water Watchers, and a spokesperson for the water protection advocacy group. He said a lot is happening in Nestlé’s local bottling operation and there is a need to mount strong, united opposition.
“We are calling in various community groups around Guelph to join Wellington Water Watchers and address this,” he said.
Ultimately, what WWW and others want to see is an end to the water-for-profit industry in Ontario. Putting pressure on the province to phase out the industry is something that needs to be undertaken on a broad, grassroots level, Case indicated.
Water protection activists believe that a 10-year extension of Nestlé’s permit to take water in Aberfoyle is far too long. They worry that drought conditions could settle in during that decade, making continued pumping for bottling purposes detrimental to the local drinking water supply.
Nestlé officials have defended the company’s pumping methods, saying water quality and levels are stridently monitored, and the amount of pumping is adjusted accordingly. Andreanne Simard, Natural Resource Manager at Nestlé Waters Canada, said recently that a 10-year permit is a standard in the water bottling industry.
Nestlé’s application related to Aberfoyle is not seeking an increase in the amount of water it pumps. It can take up to 3.6 million litres per day at Aberfoyle. The application was made back in early April.
Concurrently, the company is studying water levels and quality at the former Middlebrook well in Elora, with a mind to pumping and trucking that water to the Aberfoyle bottling plant.
The June 21 event, called Water Advocacy Voices Emerging, or WAVE, aims to build further momentum to convince the province to phase out the bottled water industry in Ontario, and to deny the Nestlé permit renewal in Aberfoyle.
WAVE is a response to the growing opposition to Nestlé's water taking across Wellington County, and is galvanized by recent efforts in Oregon and Pennsylvania to curb Nestlé’s access to local groundwater. Case said letter writing campaigns, further rallies and walks may come out of the WAVE gathering. Protesters marched from Guelph to Aberfoyle on May 29 to bring attention to their cause.
Case said it is vital to prioritize the reasons for extracting water. Tapping it in an environmentally sensitive way for the use of citizens should take a priority over bottling it for profit and creating enormous amounts of harmful plastic waste in the process, Case added.
He said the current Ontario government appears open to taking bold action on environmental protection and climate change, and may be receptive to the idea of phasing out the water bottling industry.
“We can do this, and the place to start is right here,” he added.
Environmental activist Amelia Meister started an online petition over a month ago to pressure the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change into rethinking the 10-year extension application. The petition can be found here. As of Thursday it had nearly 79,000 supporters, just over 43,000 of those from Canada.