The local community water conflict in several Maine communities, centered around the small city of Wells, took a turn on May 17 when voters at a raucous town hall meeting rejected a proposed ordinance intended to bar corporations from pulling water from aquifers in the town area.
The main corporation involved is Poland Spring, a firm which bottles the water pulled from area wells. It employs several hundred people in Maine.
Three area water districts, including those at Kennebunk and Kennebunkport and the Wells Water District, in 2008 reviewed a water-sale plan but, after public opposition erupted, quashed the idea.
That proposal led to a more controversial flat and permanent ban at Wells proposed by a number of local activities and backed by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund of Pennsylvania. The decision was slated for a community meeting, at which about 650 people met in a crowded room. But another 100 or so were estimated to be outside and unable to get in to vote.
Activists said the meeting was poorly run and that they would continue their challenges.
Could be that the Maine legislature is the most active this year of any of the 50 on the subject of . . . water rights.
Water-related pieces of legislation at Augusta so far total 127, many of them related to disputes between local communities and water bottling companies. A string of bills are aimed at resolving those disputes, but in very different ways.
Said one activist: “What is the future of our water supply going to be like? Who is going to have that say; will it be in local towns? Will it be our state government or will it be these companies taking some water and shipping it out?”
A group of Maine residents protested at the Augusta statehouse to draw attention to legislation aimed at slowing down efforts by bottled-water companies to extract drinking water from the stat.
The legislation, L.D.1028, was aimed at expanding local government authority over water extraction. A hearing on the measure was held on April 29.
The organized opposition came from a group called Save Our Water. Its self-description: “SOH2O (Save Our Water) began as a group of concerned citizens from four communities in Southern Maine opposed to a quietly, and some would say secretively, negotiated deal between Kennebunk, Kennebunkport and Wells Water District and Nestle Waters N. A. Corporation that would allow Nestle to extract up to 433,000 gallons of water per day from the Branch Brook Aquifer for as long as 55 years. That was the beginning of part of a larger battle to protect our water as a life essential natural resource that belongs to all living beings on this planet.” [see WCSH6.com, April 29]