Nestlé Waters Canada has exercised an option to purchase outright the Middlebrook Water Company property near Elora.
For several months the company has been putting the pieces in place to conduct testing on the quality, quantity and sustainability of the water source.
Opposition to the company’s activities related to Middlebrook has grown, and many in the community are against the idea of pumping local groundwater for bottling purposes.
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.
Water is currently not being drawn from the site, the company said in a press release, and won’t be until a permit is granted.
The purchase option was activated, the company said, after another party made an offer to purchase the Middlebrook property. Nestlé had the option to waive all conditions and buy the land, which it now has done.
At the same time, Nestlé is in the process of seeking a 10-year renewal of its permit to take water in Aberfoyle. Local opposition to the company’s water bottling operation has increased in recent months, and the water conservation group Wellington Water Watchers, in partnership with the Centre Wellington group Save Our Water, have joined to oppose Nestlé’s plans for Middlebrook.
Mike Nagy, chair of the Wellington Water Watchers board of directors, said opposition will continue.
“This changes nothing,” Nagy said in an email, speaking of the Middlebrook purchase. “In our view, [it is] a highly risky purchase, as the opposition to any permit to take water for this site is unprecedented. We feel if Nestlé wants to make a meaningful contribution to the community it could donate the well to Centre Wellington Township, which is in great need of this water for future needs.”
He added that present drought conditions in the region illustrate the “vulnerability and scarcity” of water.
But Nestlé calls the purchase an important investment for Wellington County, where it has sustainably operated for 15 years. The company has wells in Hillsburgh, within the county.
The company is interested in tapping the Middlebrook site as a “supplementary source” of water for its Aberfoyle bottling operation.
The just over two-hectare [five-acre] parcel of land is at 7334 Middlebrook Road in the Township of Centre Wellington, about three kilometres from Elora, and on the southwest edge of the Elora Gorge Conservation Area.
The company has said previously that it would truck the water it pumps from Middlebrook to its plant at 101 Brock Road in Aberfoyle, a distance of about 40 kilometres.
Nestlé will not make any decision to tap Middlebrook until thorough scientific data is collected, ensuring no negative impact on the Grand River watershed or local ecosystem, the company said in the release.
“We remain dedicated to performing a pump test on the quality and quantity of the water, and continue to work closely with the MOECC on the application for a permit to conduct testing on this source,” stated Andreanne Simard, Natural Resource Manager at NWC. She added that data will be made public.