Nestlé Waters Canada has bowed to pressure from environmental groups and accepted the drought restrictions detailed on a ‘Permit to Take Water’ for its Hillsburgh, Ontario bottled water production well.
Last week, the Environmental Review Tribunal of Ontario announced that an appeal launched by Nestlé Waters in October 2012 against permit conditions that restricted the amount of groundwater it could draw in the event of a drought, had been closed.
According to reports from Canada, Nestlé Waters cited costs, to it and the Ontario taxpayer, as its reason for it dropping the appeal.
“Not in the public interest”
Nestlé’s ‘Permit to Take Water’ for its Hillsburgh bottled water production well was renewed by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment (OMOE) in September 2012. This five-year license permits Nestlé Waters to draw 1.13m litres of groundwater per day. It included conditions, however, that would reduce this figure in the event of a drought.
Nestlé appealed the inclusion of these two conditions with the Environmental Review Tribunal of Ontario, but before a ruling could be made, Nestlé and OMOE reached an agreement to remove the restrictions.
In response, the Council of Canadians and Wellington Water Watchers, both represented by environmental law experts, Ecojustice, secured the right to challenge this agreement.
In August 2013, the Environmental Review Tribunal ruled that the settlement between Nestlé and the Ministry of the Environment was “not in the public interest” and that the original appeal should proceed to a full hearing.
On 17 September 2013, however, Nestlé Waters announced that it was withdrawing its original appeal, which the Environmental Review Tribunal accepted on 8 October 2013.
Commenting, Will Amos, director of the Ecojustice Clinic at the University of Ottawa, claimed that Nestlé Waters’ “withdrawal of its appeal restores the correct order for water production in Ontario, which is people, planet and then corporations who profit from our resources.”
OMOE “failed to protect” water sources
Wellington Water Watchers and the Council of Canadians welcomed the final outcome of their efforts, but slammed OMOE for its “failings.”
“It was clear to us from the beginning that the lack of hydrological information would not support Nestlé’s appeal for very long,” said Mike Nagy, chair of Wellington Water Watchers. “Sadly, the Ministry of the Environment failed to protect our communities’ water sources by negotiating a questionable settlement with Nestlé.”
“Drought conditions are occurring more often due to climate change and the Ministry is not taking its responsibility to protect our groundwater seriously. Community groups shouldn’t have to put time and money into challenging the Ministry to do its job,” said Nagy.
Commenting, Emma Lui, national water campaigner for Council of Canadians, said: “This case has highlighted the failings of the ‘Permit to Take Water’ process in Ontario, particularly during times of drought.”