CT water bottle battle compares to other states - WFSB 3 Connecticut

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CT water bottle battle compares to other states

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The water bottle battle isn't just in Connecticut (WFSB) The water bottle battle isn't just in Connecticut (WFSB)
BLOOMFIELD, CT (WFSB) -

Water is probably the most precious resource we have, and it has become one of the most profitable.

Store shelves are stocked with a lot of bottled water, and companies like Nestle, which owns Poland Spring, are making millions.

In Connecticut, there is an intense fight to stop Niagara, a California-based company, from pumping water from town reservoirs and building a bottling plant.

Connecticut isn’t the first state to see a “water war” either.

It has been going on all over the United States for a while. As a matter of fact, the battle to stop a water company in Maine made its way all the way to the Supreme Court.

Fryeburg, ME is a small town with only 3,500 people who live there. By all accounts, it’s a quaint Maine town, except for the battle waged between a big water company and those trying to block what some call “profiting” from a natural resource.

Last week, opponents were dealt a blow when the high court ruled against their appeal, but years of legal wrangling has left a bad taste.

"Who owns the water - that's a moral conundrum. We need to look at that now because the future is uncertain,” said Nickie Sekera, a local activist in Fryeburg.

In Fryeburg, Poland Spring is pumping out more than 100 million gallons of water per year.

Sekera is a strong opponent of public water for profit, and is a member of the town’s water district. She said she feels the district has little control because of a deal that was made, which could last for decades.

"This 45-year contract which they are touting to the public as 25 years --- it's really a 45 year contract,” Sekera said.

The company has a 20-year contract but can extend for the next 25 years.

"I think they are hard to fight because they have all the resources, all the lawyers,” said Bruce Taylor, who is a concerned citizen.

There is another concern people in Maine have about all the pumping, and that's surface water. For example, Round Pond used to be popular for swimming but now water levels have gone way down.

"We’ve been monitoring ponds, and all that data is public,” said Mark Dubois, Nestle Natural Resource Manager.

Dubois said Round Pond is hard to monitor because people disturb the pond and the monitoring equipment.

"We add jobs-value to the rural community,” Dubois said.

He said the company’s bottling plants employ about 800 people, although Nestle doesn’t pay taxpayers for their water, they do pay the Fryeburg Water Company for what they take.

"We’ve been able to keep costs down because of the subsidized monies we receive from Poland Spring,” said Jean Andrews, of Fryeburg Water Company.

Andrews said corporate money has also helped make improvements to their infrastructure, and some who get that water favor the deal.

"We pay very little for some of the best water in the world,” said Dick Krasker, who supports the water deal.

At the time this started, there weren’t many ground rules, but now there are.

The state of Maine regulates how much water is withdrawn, plus Nestle is required to have permits on what they take out and transport.

However, the Fryeburg Water Company is completely private, and some in town have a problem with the two private companies making a deal with public water.

"We are fighting Nestle in Maine…in Pennsylvania, California where there is a drought. It's not just an issue going on in Maine, it's going down in the U.S.," said Nisha Swinton, of Food and Water Watch.

In Connecticut, construction has already started on a bottling plant in Bloomfield.

Niagara plans to take out and bottle about two million gallons per day from the MDC’s reservoir system, much of it coming from Barkhamsted and Nepaug, where a dozen towns depend on that supply.

A bill that would have required a state permit failed in the legislature.

"This part of the region right now is abundant with water, which is great, but there is no end to the contract with Niagara,” said Val Rosetti, of Bloomfield.

In places like Georgia, water levels got so low there was a drought. People had to cut back but companies were allowed to keep pumping.

Nestle said that issue has been addressed in Maine.

Dubois said if there is a problem or a drought, they would stop, per their contract.

In Connecticut, water is being taken from reservoirs and the MDC says rain helps replenish it, however drought is a concern.

In fact, on Wednesday the MDC is having a meeting at their Hartford headquarters to talk about that.

Copyright 2016 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved. 

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