In "Profound Loss for Maine's Citizens," Court OKs Sale of Town's Water to Nestle

It was a win for corporate control of public water on Thursday for one Maine town.

The winner in the case is Nestlé Waters of North America, which operates locally as Poland Spring. Fryeburg, Maine property owner Bruce Taylor and advocacy group Food & Water Watch had challenged the decision by the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) that afforded the company the right to bottle and sell off water from the aquifer.

The Portland, Maine Press Herald reports:

Taylor and Food and Water Watch had argued that the water district’s charter didn’t allow for bulk extraction, bottling and reselling of the water, but Maine’s top court disagreed, upholding the deal that allows the company to lease premises and purchase water. The court found “that there was no abuse of discretion or violation of statutory provision,” the Associated Press reports. The ruling states, “The proposed agreement was for twenty-five years, with the option of four additional five-year extensions.”

The Bangor Daily News points out that

Colin Woodard explored this conflict of interest in depth back in 2013 for the Press Herald in an article entitled “For regulators and Nestlé Waters, conflict by the gallon.” And while some residents may welcome the $12,000 a month the new contract makes Nestle pay to the town and believe that the company is operating fairly, Woodard’s reporting also pointed to the approach to water as a commodity that has raised the ire of critics in Fryeburg and beyond:

Nisha Swinton, a senior organizer with Food & Water Watch issued a statement following the decision, calling it “a profound loss for Maine’s citizens” that “paves the way for a private corporation to profit from a vital public resource for decades to come.”

“Water is a basic right,” she added. “No private company should be allowed to rake in profits from water while leaving a local community high and dry. As we’ve seen in communities around the country, selling off Fryeburg’s water will do nothing to help the town’s residents.

“Nestlé has a long history of bullying communities into selling off public assets for private profit. Unfortunately, they’ve won this round,” Swinton said.

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