Local Opposition to Proposed Bottled Water Facility Gains Momentum
Keep Nestle out of the Gorge Launches Campaign to Oppose Nestle Plant
Clackamas, Ore.—Keep Nestle Out of the Gorge, a coalition of 15 environmental and social justice organizations led by the national consumer advocacy group Food & Water Watch, today launched a coordinated campaign to prevent Nestle Waters North America from opening a water bottling facility in Cascade Locks. The groups delivered some 4,000 petition signatures against the facility to Roy Elicker, Director of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), whose department will play a crucial role in determining whether the deal can move forward.
Nestle has asked ODFW to approve an agreement that would exchange part of ODFW’s water rights at Oxbow Springs with an equivalent amount of well water from the city of Cascade Locks. Nestle would then buy both the city’s well and spring water to bottle under its Pure Life and Arrowhead labels. While the financial details of the deal are not clear, Nestle has paid an average of $.00225 per gallon in other areas where it has brokered similar deals. A gallon of Nestle’s spring water sold in single-serve containers sells for $5.30.
While Nestle has cited the creation of 53 new jobs as a potential outcome of the proposed water bottling facility, some question the quality and safety of those positions. A report released last year by Food & Water Watch found that bottled water workers earn $10,000 less than their counterparts in other manufacturing jobs, and that their injury rate is 50 percent higher.
“Cascade Locks is just Nestle’s latest stop in its trek across America to pump precious water resources from rural communities,” said Julia DeGraw, northwest organizer for Food & Water Watch. “Preying on local economic challenges, Nestle promises new jobs in exchange for access to local water supplies. But few employment opportunities ever materialize from such transactions, and those that do pay very little, and endanger worker safety.”
In this agreement, Nestle would pump an average of 13.88 million gallons of water a month, a proposition that worries many. “Nestle has a poor track record in similar communities across the nation, said Brett VandenHeuvel, executive director of Columbia Riverkeeper. “We’re concerned that Nestle may harm springs in the Gorge.”
Keep Nestle out of the Gorge also opposes the plant because it would increase traffic and pollution to an ecologically sensitive area and could endanger local wildlife. A water bottling facility would introduce up to 210 truck trips a day to rural roads, potentially damaging the Gorge’s scenery and negatively affecting tourism in Cascade Locks.
There is also concern that extracting large volumes of water from Oxbow Springs could affect sensitive fish species and other local waterways. “We are extremely concerned about the impact that a water bottling facility would have on Herman Creek,” said Tom Wolf, chair of Oregon Council Trout Unlimited. “A bottled water plant will drain water from Oxbow Springs, potentially impacting levels in Herman Creek, which is fed by Oxbow Springs, and serves as a cool water refuge in warm summer months for tens of thousands threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead species.” There is also concern that the sensitive species raised at ODFW’s fish hatchery, such as Coho Salmon, Idaho Sockeye and the Grande Ronde Spring Chinook, could be harmed.
Public resistance to the proposed facility is mounting, evidenced by the some 4,000 petition signatures that were delivered to Director Elicker today in opposition to the plant. Residents of Cascade Locks also question the company’s plan to bottle local water and worry that Nestle has answered few of their questions regarding the facility’s potential impact on the area.
“The community of Cascade Locks has tried to engage with Nestle to learn about how a water bottling facility might impact the area,” said Katelin Stuart, a Cascade Locks resident. “We are concerned about the amount of money that Nestle stands to earn in this transaction, and how it compares to what the community is being offered in exchange for one of its vital resources. We don’t want to be steamrolled by a big company looking to turn our water resources into a new source of profit, but we fear that may happen if the ODFW goes ahead and approves this deal.”
Cascade Locks is the latest in a streak of rural areas Nestle has attempted to bottle water from. Last year, citizens in the 1,300-person town of McCloud, Calif. concluded a five-year battle with the company when Nestle agreed to withdraw a proposal to bottle water from the area’s springs.
The coalition hosted a rally today to kick off the campaign and to hand the petitions over to Rick Swart, public information officer of ODFW’s Northwest Region, who will deliver them to Director Elicker. Groups involved with the campaign include Alliance for Democracy; Bark; Cascadia Wildlands Project; Climate Justice League; Columbia Riverkeeper; Community for Earth; First Unitarian Church of Portland; Environment Oregon; EJAG of the First Unitarian Church in Portland; Green Sanctuary; Unitarian Universalist Church of Eugene; Gifford Pinchot Task Force; Native Fish Society; Oregon Citizens for Safe Drinking Water; Sierra Club; and Trout Unlimited, Oregon Council.
Contact: Kate Fried, Food & Water Watch, kfried(at)fwwatch(dot)org, (202) 683-2500
Julia DeGraw, Food & Water Watch, jdegraw(at)fwwatch(dot)org, (503) 241-6556