Battle against Nestle water-bottling permit continues

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Concerned citizens protest Seven Springs/Nestle water bottle permit. Dec., 2019. Photo by Jim Tatum

Read the original article here in the Gainesville Sun.  The article is now online and will appear in print in Sunday’s edition.

Battle against Nestle water-bottling permit continues

By Michael Roth
Special to The Sun  August 20, 2020

For the second time this year, the Suwannee River Water Management District had on its agenda a scheduled vote on the Seven Springs Water application to draw about a million gallons of water a day from the already impaired Santa Fe River so that they can sell it to Nestle Waters to put in plastic bottles to sell to the rest of the world.

At maturity, the plant is scheduled to produce almost 6,000 bottles per minute. That’s a lot of plastic — and a lot of water!

The water is free to Seven Springs except for a small permit fee. They sell it to Nestle at a price that is an absolute secret — so secretive that the contract between them was not made privy to the district, which is one of the three reasons that the district staff recommended denying the permit in March of this year.

Then, suddenly, a startling thing happened. On Aug. 3, the district announced that the next board agenda would include the recommended approval of a revised permit, asking for 984,000 gallons per day instead of the original 1.152 million gallons per day, still over 2.5 times the highest amount (and over three times the average amount) of previous withdrawals under the permit.

Aug. 11 was the day. There were about 150 people on the teleconference, which has been the mode of district meetings since March.

As we waited for the public comment period leading to the big vote, long-time Board member Donald Quincey (in his last meeting of his now-expired term) moved to table the question citing (as Our Santa Fe River pointed out to the board about 18 months ago) the fact that the permittee was not of itself equipped or positioned to use their allocation of water and Nestle, who was to use the water, wasn’t listed on the permit.

He suggested that the board require Nestle to be a co-permittee, and after some discussion, the board agreed 5-1 to table it. So back to the Division of Administrative Hearings it goes, where the whole settlement is set aside, and the district immediately moved to add the co-permittee condition to the reasons for denial. We await the Seven Springs/Nestle objection, which is sure to follow.

Seven Springs and Nestle have engaged some high-powered legal players to see that they get the result they want. Our Santa Fe River, an almost 15-year-old all-volunteer organization dedicated to the health of the river and its springs, is struggling to raise the resources to get the Board of Governors and, if necessary, the Department of Administrative Hearings, to preserve our water as they were created to do.

Until such time as we are convinced that we are indeed engaged in an aggressive campaign of misinformation, Our Santa Fe River will devote its being to the protection of our glorious resource.

Michael Roth is president of Our Santa Fe River Inc.

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