OSFR Op-Ed Cited in Palm Beach Post

frank carabino In: OSFR Op-Ed Cited in Palm Beach Post | Our Santa Fe River, Inc. | Protecting the Santa Fe River in North Florida

Read the complete article in the Palm Beach Post here at this link.

Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.https://www.palmbeachpost.com
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-


Circumcisions and bottled water tell the tale of stingy/generous Florida

 
By Frank Cerabino
Posted Sep 21, 2019 at 12:01 AMFrank Cerabino’s column comparing the state’s ability to be stingy to poor kids while showing an uncommon generosity to the company that takes out water and sells it back to us.Is Florida stingy or generous with public resources?

Hard to say. You could make the argument either way.

If you’re making the “stingy” argument, consider the state policy that stopped allowing state Medicaid funds to pay for the circumcisions of poor infant boys.

This was a cruel and, ultimately, a foolish bit of cost cutting. And not worth a lot of money to begin with. When the state ended the circumcision funding in 2003, the total cost to taxpayers for circumcising poor boys in the state was $14.9 million.

But you’d be wrong to imagine that this kind of stingy, zealous protection of public resources extends to other areas.

For example, take the public water supply.

The Florida Resources Act of 1972 found that the state’s springs, rivers and lakes belong to the people of Florida. Codified in state law, it declares that Florida’s water is held in public trust for the benefit of its citizens.

I mention this because Nestle, the Swiss-headquartered largest food and beverage company in the world, has plans through one of its subsidiaries to draw 1.1 million gallons a day from Ginnie Springs along the Santa Fe River….

That’s 1.1 million gallons a day of water that is part of that public trust for the benefit of Floridians.

Nestle has been extracting Florida’s water, and pumping it to its nearby plant in High Springs, where it is sold back to Floridians as bottled water. It has new plans to pump about four times the water it currently pumps.

Environmentalists say this could be disastrous.

Florida’s springs are under stress, so much so that the state is spending $100 million this year on restoration projects for them. And the Santa Fe River, which is fed by Ginnie Springs, is losing water, even before the proposed accelerated water extraction.

Nestle counters that the 1.1 million gallons-per-day is sustainable amount of water to extract, and besides, the company is really helping us out in so many other ways.

“Nestlé Waters North America (NWNA), which owns Zephyrhills Brand Natural Spring Water, has worked to be a good neighbor in Florida for decades,” the company said in a statement.

“We bring social and economic value to the communities where we operate by hiring local vendors, paying local taxes, donating to local charities, enabling and encouraging our employees to volunteer, and sharing our experience in water resource management.

“We create high-paying jobs with good benefits – as of last year, NWNA employs more than 800 people in the state of Florida, and spends more than $58 million annually on payroll,” the company continued.

“We also invest in many community projects, from watershed protection to waste cleanup to disaster relief and emergency donations.”

OK, but can we get back to that water, the water that we Floridians own. The water Nestle wants in unprecedented quantities.

When that water gets put in a Zephyrhills bottle, what’s it worth?

If you do the math, one gallon of water makes a little more than 7 ½ bottles of 16.9-ounce Zephyrhills water. Multiply that by 1.1 million and you get 8,331,360 bottles of water a day.

When they’re sold at Target in a 24-pack, they cost $4.39, or about 18.3 cents a bottle.

And that’s a cheap bottle of water. If you get that same bottle at a convenience store it can cost more than $1.50.

But even at its discount, bulk rate, the retail value of 1.1 million gallons of bottled water in this calculation comes to more than $1.5 million per day of retail product.

OK, so the citizens of Florida through our elected officials are poised to grant a giant global food and beverage company access to a water resource that provides the raw material for hundreds of millions of dollars of product each year.

That ought to bring in a lot of money for us, right?

Being as stingy as we are about the foreskins of poor children, you might imagine we’d be the recipients of a big contract with Nestle, which, by the way, made a global profit of $10 billion last year.

But here’s how it works. Nestle gets the water from Seven Springs Water Company, a local company that actually has the permit to draw the water.

And how much does Seven Springs Water Company have to pay for the right to pump all that water?

Just a one-time $115 application fee. That’s it. The water’s free.

Yes, we’re giving it away, and then buying it back one bottle at a time.

Merrillee Malwatz-Jipson [sic] and Jim Tatum, board members of the environmental group, Our Santa Fe River Inc., put it this way in a piece published in the Gainesville Sun.

“We have an ethical issue with our state putting large sums of money into conservation practices and recharge projects on the Santa Fe River and then, at the same time, counteracting this action by fomenting the free extraction of a publicly owned natural resource by a for-profit company,” they wrote.

“Essentially, taxpayers are funding replenishment of the aquifer and then allowing Nestle to take it out and sell it back to us.”

I prefer to look at this as an example of our unbridled generosity.

Some people might say our lawmakers are just a bunch of pushovers who give stuff away for nothing. But they’d be wrong.

They can be ruthless when it comes to poor infants.

[email protected]

@FranklyFlorida

 

1 Comment

  1. Thanks to Frank Cerabino for breaking down the numbers. As a former Palm Beach Post reader, I always enjoyed reading his columns. I’ve been thinking the same thing; if they can charge $1.50 for a 20 oz. bottle, why can’t we charge Nestle $1.00 a gallon? This corporate welfare for multinational corporations has got to stop! They brag that they pay the people that work for them, as if it’s some sort of gift. They make huge profits off those working class people, and our free-to-them water resources. “Water management” in this state is a misnomer.

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