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Water advocates call for Nestlé’ wells to be returned to municipalities if sale happens

Wellington Water Watchers and other advocacy groups want the wells returned to the people if Nestlé sells its water bottling business
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Nestlé's plant in Aberfoyle. GuelphToday file photo

ABERFOYLE – Water advocates are demanding the exclusion of local wells in any sale of Nestlé’s North American water bottling portfolio, and  instead return them to municipalities.

This summer Nestlé announced it is considering the sale of most of its North American water bottling  business.

The intended sale of the Nestlé Pure Life business to Ice River Springs fell  through last month because the transaction did not meet the Competition Bureau’s regulatory approval process.

The Wellington Water Watchers want Nestlé to exclude all controversial wells from any sales and return them to their respective public municipalities, particularly the Aberfoyle well. 

Earlier this week the group co-signed a letter to Nestlé ’s CEO Ulf Mark Schneider urging Nestlé to make amends for its  controversial history in this community.

Advocates say the Aberfoyle well should be given back to the Six Nations of  the Grand River, a water insecure community that claims ownership as part of the  Haldimand Proclamation and the 1701 Nanfan Treaty.

The Wellington Water Watchers are making this request with other advocacy groups in Canada, the U.S. and Switzerland, advocating that Nestlé return the  Aberfoyle well and four other controversial wells in the United States: Ruby Mountain Springs in Colorado, Ginnie Springs in Florida, the Arrowhead complex in California and White Pine Springs in Michigan.

Additionally, the Wellington Water Watchers argue the Middlebrook well outside Elora and Hillsburgh well should be given back to their municipalities.

When asked about the request to give wells back to their respective  jurisdictions, Andreanne Simard, Natural Resource Manager for Nestlé Waters Canada said, “Nestlé Waters Canada is proud to be part of the communities in which we operate. We have a long history of supporting these communities as an employer, a contributor to local organizations and by maintaining open and  transparent communications.”

If Nestlé does not return the wells, Wellington Water Watchers urgea the provincial government to step in and buy them.

“Nestlé is not known to be a generous company,” said Mike Balkwill, campaign director with the Wellington Water Watchers. “They could afford to give [the  Aberfoyle well] away for free. The provincial or federal government could also buy and give these wells back,” he said

“Nestlé takes water from the people of Wellington who need it for the future, exports the profit to Switzerland, and then 60 kilometres away, the majority of Six Nations people don’t have clean drinking water,” says Balkwill. “Successive Ontario governments have allowed the injustice to persist for 20 years.”

If the provincial government bought the well, Balkwill feels this would be a real step toward reconciliation. “It would be late, but it would be important, and it’s necessary.”

“To allow the sale would be to continue that neglect and injustice.”

Leah Gerber’s reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its  Local Journalism Initiative. The funding allows her to report on stories about  the Grand River Watershed. Email lgerber@therecord.com




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