[UPDATE] The Face Off With Nestle

By: Jill Chandler, Candace Sweat Email
By: Jill Chandler, Candace Sweat Email

UPDATED By Candace Sweat 12-07 at 10pm

Many Jefferson county residents say they don't want Nestle in their community.

Nestle says if folks really want the truth about their company, they should check their track record, and they should start with their water bottling plant in Madison County.

The Suwannee River Management District monitors that plant and two others in Florida.

"All the monitoring reports that we've received to date have shown that there is no adverse impact on the system," said Herd.

Herd says Nestle has not yet applied for a permit to begin pumping water from Wacissa Springs.

But if they do submit an application, they'll have to demonstrate they will not cause harm to the water resources. That means they can't change the flow rates in any way that could be harmful to fish, recreation, wildlife, or aesthetics.

"I couldn't see them having an adverse affect on the system without us stepping in and doing something," said Herd.

The Management District says water bottling plants under their watch are allowed to take 2.9 million gallons of water per day.

Combined, the three plants monitored by the Management District take 705-thousand gallons of water per day. That's about 2.1 million gallons less than what they're actually allowed to take.

Madison County residents say they can attest that Nestle has enhanced their way of life.

"We have very little industry here in Madison, and it has been such a tremendous help because when Dixie Packers left us they was very little left and Nestle stepped up and they have been one of our major employers," said Madison Commissioner, Myra Valentine.

Nestle says they hope residents will realize they they're partners with the community, not enemies.
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UPDATED By Candace Sweat 12-07 at 6:30pm

Nestle representatives say they understand residents' concerns, but say they if they're given the green light to pump water in Jefferson, they would not do anything that would have an adverse effect on that water system.

And they actually have a plant not far away in Madison County that officials say is doing very well. Nestle opened the plant in Madison in 2004 and they pump water from a nearby river

Representatives from the Suwannee Water Management District say they've been monitoring that plant and so far Nestle has not had any adverse effects to the surrounding area.

A spokesperson from the Suwannee Water Management District says Nestle has not yet applied for a permit to begin pumping water from Wacissa Springs.

If Nestle does submit an application, the management district says they have to demonstrate that they will not cause harm to the water resources. That means Nestle can't change the flow rates in any way that could be harmful to fish, recreation, wildlife, or aesthetics.

Nestle representative say, according to the research they've done, the Wacissa River pumps 250 gallons of water per day. They say they would only be taking less than one percent of its total volume.

The Suwanee River Water Management District says water bottling plants under their watch are allowed to take 2.9 million gallons of water per day. Right now they oversee three plants that are only taking about 705-thousand gallons per day.

This means that each individual plant is taking much less than what they're permitted to take.
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UPDATE By Candace Sweat 11/08

Nestle water company has faced serious opposition from Wacissa residents ever since announcing that they're interested in setting up shop to bottle water from Wacissa Springs.

But even with all the back and forth debate, there's a third party who says the decision is ultimately theirs to make.

The Suwannee River Water Management District says Nestle has not yet submitted an official application to take water from Wacissa Springs. But they say if Nestle does submit an application, they'll have a lot of criteria to meet before getting the green light.

William Jones says he's lived near Wacissa Springs all his life. And when times were tough, it was that same body of water that helped him make it through.

"I was hurt one time, no way to make a living, couldn't get a job. My wife and I got in a boat on that river and caught catfish day in and day out, and I fed my family and I paid my bills from that water," said Jones.

Jones got word that Nestle Water Company is looking at Wacissa Springs as a potential spot for a water bottling plant. And like many others in Wacissa, he's concerned there will damaging effects on the river.

Nestle representatives say they understand resident's concerns, but say *if* they're given the green light to take water from the spring, they would only be taking less than one percent of it's total volume.

Ultimately, its the Suwannee River Water Management District will give Nestle the go-ahead, or send them packing.

"If they use any of that water they have to demonstrate that they will not cause harm to those water resources. They can't change that flow rates in any water body that would be harmful to fish, recreation, wildlife or aesthetics, and they have to make a demonstration of that," said Jon Dinges, Director of Water Supply and Resources for the SRWMD.

Dinges says if Nestle applies for a permit to take water from the spring, it could take up to six months before a decision is made.

Again, Nestle has not yet made a request to begin the operation. Right not they're still in the research phase.

Dinges says even if Nestle is given a permit, that permit can be revoked at any time if they feel the river or anything involved with the river is in jeopardy of being damaged.
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UPDATE By Jill Chandler 11/7

Friends of the Wacissa gathered at the river head Sunday to protect one of their most loved natural resources, the river.

April Reagn, a resident of Wacissa said, "We raise our children on this river... every free moment we have we're down there swimming, fishing, spending time with friends- we love it."

That love is the reason hundreds of people are banning together to try to stop Nestle Waters company from bottling water from the river.

Nestle Representative Jim McClellan says, "We have not and will not do anything that harms the river or the ecosystem, or that deprives anyone of their use of it. That's our company policy and, more importantly, it's the law of Florida."

County Commissioner Danny Monroe said, "Well I'm elected to try to protect our resources and water is one of those, and represent the people. You can see from the crowd of people here and the people been calling and writing and calling me, that the people don't want this here"

Nestle representatives reiterated they are just testing the waters at this point. It could take another year of testing to decide, and the final decision will come from the Suwanee River Water Management District.
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UPDATE By Candace Sweat 11/5

Ronald Brumbley and his wife Barbara spend a lot of time down at the Wacissa River. Both grew up in the area and say they couldn't imagine life without all the river has to offer. Which is why they're bracing themselves for a big fight ahead.

"Our concern is that it will dry up our wells and that sink holes will appear here and it will drop the water level. We have wildlife we have birds, we have vegetation that will disappear and once its gone it wont come back," said Brumbley.

But Nestle Water Company says that's just not the case. In fact, they say if they decided to set up shop at Wacissa Springs to bottle the water, it would be quite the opposite.

"It may seem like we're coming in and picking on a small community but what we're doing is offering a small community opportunity. We have to be able to prove not only to ourselves but to the state and to our community that we want to work within that this is a source that we can viably take some of the water without creating any harm to the down steam environment," said Kent Keptiuch, Nestle's Natural Resource Manager.

Nestle reps say this water system pumps out about 250 million gallon of water per day, they say at max they would only be pumping out less than one percent of its total volume. Still, many people in this area say they don't want to see their water bottled up.

Nestle is still very much in the preliminary phases and say they will take their time doing research before moving forward with their decision.

Nestle says it could be up to two years before they actually start pumping water from the spring. They said if they get the green light, the community will hardly notice they're there.

But Wacissa residents say they will. And they're having a meeting on Sunday to discuss they're plan of action. They say they're willing to take this matter all the way to the Supreme Court of necessary.
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If you drive through Jefferson County political signs are overshadowed by another kind of sign.

The signs read "Say No to Nestle." Nestle is the largest bottled water company in America, and they're targeting the Wacissa Springs for possible growth.

For people who have grown up in the area they say this is the last thing they want. "I was raised on this river, I have a passionate love for this river and I don't want to see it harmed in any way," said Robert Brumbley.

Ronald Brumbley and others have been researching the Nestle company. He said, "They go into communities like this(Wacissa Springs) mostly and pick on small communities who do not have the resources to fight 'em."

Florida Springs Expert Jim Stevenson says, "There are springs in Florida that no longer flow and many others have lost much of their flow because of pumping in the spring sheds."

That is what members of the community fear.

If Nestle is approved by the Suwannee River Water Management for pumping, not only would Nestle be pumping their natural spring water, but 60 to 70 trucks would be going down a narrow residential two-way road every day.

"This road can't stand it, our infrastructure can't stand it, and our river can't stand that kind of attack," said Brumbley.

Others are concerned the community won't even get new jobs out it.
Sheri Green went to a meeting with Nestle representative and she says they were told, "There will be no jobs that will come to this community. They do have a couple of Jefferson County employees at the Madison County Plant but they will not provide any here."

Nestle representatives say they are only testing the water at this point, and have no definitive plans to come to Wacissa Springs.


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