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Nestlé denies it "outbid" Centre Wellington for Middlebrook property

But opponents say water bottling company still has time "to do the right thing"
20160513 Nestle ro

CENTRE WELLINGTON — Nestlé Waters says it did not outbid the Centre Wellington Township for the Middlebrook Water Bottling Co. property just outside Elora.

It says it exercised its right of first refusal on the property when what was — at the time — an unnamed bidder put in an offer. That bidder turned out to be the township.

But opponents of the water bottling company's purchase and application to take water from the site say the company "still has time to do the right thing."

For the past year-and-a-half Nestlé had a conditional offer on the property, as it awaited a permit to carry out an official pump test under the supervision of the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change.

Mirroring a similar effort in Guelph on the same night, roughly 100 citizens turned out to the meeting of Centre Wellington council Monday night seeking a resolution that the township opposes Nestlé's application.

Like Guelph, their resolution was deferred, although the feeling was council is behind the move.

In a notice sent to media and on its web site Tuesday titled "Working Together In The Best Interest of Wellington County Community," Nestlé Canada Inc. said it exercised its first right of refusal on a property no one else was initially interested in buying.

"The site was formerly a permitted water bottling facility that the former owner tried to sell for approximately 10 years," said the release, attributed to Cedric Focking Schneider, Corporate Affairs Manager for Nestlé Waters Canada.

It said that prior to an initial offer in March 2015, Nestlé "reached out to the Centre Wellington Township to determine their interest in the property and at the time they were not interested in it."

After an anonymous party made a counter-offer in July, Nestlé said they exercised their first right of refusal and proceeded with the purchase.

"We did not outbid the anonymous offer," the release said.

That offer was from Centre Wellington.

"We were not made aware the counter offer was from Centre Wellington until well after we exercised the first right of refusal to proceed with the purchase of the site."

Libby Carlaw, spokesperson of the local citizens group SaveOurWater said the company still has a chance to "do what's right."

"It was a conditional offer to purchase. They could have let it go," Carlaw said.

"If Nestlé didn't know it was the township making the offer, they can still do the right thing."

Nestlé said it is committed to moving forward in a careful and scientific manner as testing on the site continues.

An application to perform a pump test is before the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change.

"We remain dedicated to working with all stakeholders on our pump test permit because science drives this process. We continue to work with the township to find a way to move forward in a manner that preserves and creates shared environmental, community and economic value.

"We are hopeful that a public discussion around permitting, pricing and water sustainability leads to a more collaborative and science-based approach in managing this valuable resource."

"Nestlé wants to ensure there is no negative impact on the watershed and surrounding ecosystem."


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Tony Saxon

About the Author: Tony Saxon

Tony Saxon has had a rich and varied 30 year career as a journalist, an award winning correspondent, columnist, reporter, feature writer and photographer.
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