Our response: Thousands of us spoke up to Nestlé, and hundreds of our Story Community members contributed money to the town’s fight, funding water stations and branded water bottles for the local schools to reinforce the value of their local water resource. Just recently, the town of Fryeburg received amazing news when the Maine Public Utility Commission published a study recommending that the PUC reject Nestlé’s contract with Fryeburg.
The Story: Around the world, corporations are privatizing water, literally pumping it right out from under the people who depend on it. Nestlé has been one of the most ruthless companies, ensuring at the World Water Forum in 2000 that water was not defined as a human right. Since Nestlé has locked into law the idea that water is a commodity in need of corporate control, private entities are able to buy up and control ground water sources around the world, taking them away from communities that have relied on them for centuries.
In a tremendous response, over 200,000 of our Community members signed a petition to Nestlé calling on the corporation to stop its global water grabs. After looking at communities currently affected by Nestlé, we focused on the town of Fryeburg, Maine, where local activists have been locked in legal battles with Nestlé for nearly a decade.Nestlé subsidiary Poland Spring has long eyed Fryeburg’s natural spring water, and has sued the town numerous times, arguing in court that the company’s right to grow profits supersedes the rights of Fryeburg’s citizens. After nearly nine years of court cases, corruption, and a stinging defeat in the Maine Supreme Court, this year the citizens of Fryeburg have reason to be hopeful.
Fryeburg is current preparing to argue its case against Nestlé before the Maine Public Utilities Commission. All the cards seemed to be in Nestlé’s favor, but earlier this year, an investigative journalist revealed that the PUC was almost entirely controlled by Nestlé — nearly everyone on the Commission, including the Public Advocate that was to argue Fryeburg’s case — was either a former Nestlé employee or had worked at a law firm Nestlé paid to lobby on its behalf. Only after the facts were publicly aired did the Commission recuse itself, to be replaced by a less biased group appointed by Maine’s governor.
Hundreds of members of the Story Community chipped in to help out the people of Fryeburg. Our local allies, The Friends of the Fryeburg Water District, have been overjoyed at the outpouring of support, which will enable them to purchase state-of-the-art water stations for the children of the town. Word of the project also got out to the Mizu water bottle company, which has offered top of the line water bottles at a friendly discount, to ensure that the citizens of Fryeburg will treasure their connection to and ownership of their resource. Right now, our Fryeburg friends are in discussion with the local school administration to see if the donated water stations and water bottles can replace the bottled-water vending machine that currently sits in the schools hallways.
Thanks to the good deeds of people like yourself, we are helping the people of Fryeburg take control of their own story — and their own water. By having a close connection to their town’s spring water, the children of Fryeburg and their families will have a greater appreciation for their most precious resource, and continue to fight for it into the future.
This Saturday, Fryeburg got more good news when an unbiased Public Utility Commission released its preliminary report, recommending that it reject Nestlé’s attempted 45-year contract with the Fryeburg Water District. This remarkable move is a burst of good news for the people of Fryeburg. For the first time in years, there is a real sense that they can defeat the hulking multinational that has been hovering over their town.
This is only one of many battles around the world currently raging between bottled water companies like Nestlé and the people who depend on local water resources. We are committed to ensuring local control of natural resources — particularly one as vital as water — and we will continue to support communities around the world when their resources come under attack.
Portland Press Herald: Nestlé Waters’ bid to sign Fryeburg deal suffers setback, September 19th, 2014
Al Jazeera: Conflict of interest claims persist in Maine’s Nestlé water case, September 20th, 2013