After a disappointing permit renewal that will see Nestle Waters draw precious H20 from the aquifer in Aberfoyle for another five years, many observers expected the Wellington Water Watchers, at least, to keep up the fight. But a short deadline on the appeal, as it turns out, is only one of the reasons why the WWW opted out of further action.
Here's the WWW press release to explain why.
Wellington Water Watchers has decided not to appeal the April 30 decision by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment to grant a five-year extension to the water-taking permit in Aberfoyle issued to Nestlé Waters Canada. “The Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR) system is flawed, and we have decided there is no point in participating in a process that appears to be a window-dressing exercise,” explains Mike Nagy, Wellington Water Watchers’ Board member.
WWWs will continue to oppose the wasteful and unsustainable practices of the plastic bottled water industry while supporting and promoting municipal drinking water services. The WWWs also argues that Ontario’s EBR process overwhelmingly favours ‘the proponent’ – in this case, Nestlé – and needs overhauling and renewal itself. “Proper procedures were not followed in this permit review,” Nagy explains, “and we were not treated fairly as stakeholders in the process. It is hard to believe in what is supposed to be an objective and balanced process, that Nestlé was put in charge of arranging technical meetings and inviting the participants. The Wellington Water Watchers were marginalized as a result.”
One particularly glaring oversight was Nestlé’s exclusion of Wellington Water Watchers from a key technical meeting on March 24. “The MOE should have been leading these meetings and ensuring that all stakeholders were invited and able to attend,” Nagy adds. “It’s obvious to us that ‘the proponent’ has a vested interest in keeping specific parties – particularly those seeking restrictions – from participating.”
Wellington Water Watchers had expected the renewed permit to be no longer than two years, with annual water volume reductions, and consideration for the fact that the wider community did not favour renewal. The group continues to have significant concerns that the MOE has not properly considered many key unresolved issues, including the lack of cold water upwelling in Mill Creek and potential for introduction of contaminants into the aquifer as a result of the pumping.
“Further, volume reduction should have been part of this new agreement, as Ontario is currently reviewing all water budgets and will be looking for conservation from all sectors in the near future,” says WWW Board member André Hueniken. “The province needs to live up to its commitment to uphold the precautionary principle, not just in word, but in deed, especially when making decisions that will affect future generations.”
“We’re not going away,” he adds. “We’ll continue to do everything we can to protect our watershed, and to properly regulate this wasteful, unnecessary industry.”