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Groups to participate in water takings hearing


February 27, 2013
By administrator

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Feb. 27, 2013, Hillsburgh, Ont. – The Council of Canadians and Wellington Water Watchers (WWW) – with
legal representation from Ecojustice – are now parties to a case
involving Nestlé’s water takings in Hillsburgh, Ont.

Feb. 27, 2013, Hillsburgh, Ont. – The Council of Canadians and Wellington Water Watchers (WWW) – with
legal representation from Ecojustice – are now parties to a case
involving Nestlé’s water takings in Hillsburgh, Ont.

Last Thursday,
the two groups won the right to challenge a proposed agreement between
Nestlé and the Ministry of Environment (MoE), which would permit water
withdrawals from a shared water source during low water conditions.
The agreement stems from Nestlé’s appeal of an MoE ruling requiring
them to reduce their water takings during times of drought.

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Both Nestlé and the MoE strongly opposed the groups’
attempt to intervene but their arguments were rejected by the
Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT). By gaining party status through
the ERT, the groups will ensure the local aquifer is protected. Last
March, the two groups formally requested a review of Ontario’s Permit
To Take Water process as it applies to licenses granted by the province
to bottle water, urging Ontario to overhaul its approach that is inconsistent with the Public Trust Doctrine (PTD). The
PTD holds that certain natural resources, including ground water,
belong to all Canadians and cannot be privately owned or controlled. This is because of the resources’ inherent importance to each
individual and society as a whole.

“We believe this case presents an exciting
opportunity for the ERT to recognize that the Public Trust Doctrine
provides a valid legal basis for upholding the Director’s decision to add drought-related conditions to Nestlé’s Permit To Take Water,” said
Maude Barlow, National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians, in a press release.

"The MoE should stand by the conditions it imposed
on the permit renewal, even though we do not agree with this permit in
general, the mandatory conservation measures are prudent and consistent
with what is asked from private citizens.  No one should profit from
shortage. The lawyer for Nestlé opposed ‘adding a third leg to the
stool,’ meaning party status for WWW and the Council of Canadians. Everyone knows what happens when you try and sit on a stool with only
two legs. We are here to ensure its stability and proper foundation,”
says Mike Nagy, Chair, Wellington Water Watchers, in the release.

“The MoE and Nestlé opposed our clients becoming parties in the appeal. We believe that more public participation, not
less, is the best way to ensure that the importance of our common water
resources is not forgotten,” said Will Amos, lawyer for Ecojustice, in the release.

The groups are concerned that under the proposed
agreement, Nestlé’s ability to take up to approximately 1.1 million
litres of water per day from Hillsburgh for its bottling operations in
Aberfoyle will not be subject to mandatory restrictions during
droughts. The City of Guelph issued a red alert last summer requiring a
20 per cent mandatory reduction in water use from Guelph residents because of
drought conditions. Wellington County farmers, livestock producers and
residents were seriously impacted when they experienced the worst
drought in over a decade last summer. Guelph Eramosa Township,
neighbouring township to The Town of Erin, was on Level II restrictions
(yellow alert) well into November.
On February 19, the groups learned that Nestlé and
the Ministry of the Environment struck a deal to allow Nestlé to pump
water for its bottled water operation without restrictions during Level
I or Level II droughts.