Nestlé is seeking permission to take over 1.1m gallons of water a day out of an ecologically fragile body of water in Florida, prompting outrage from residents and environmentalists.
Nestlé Waters, which produces two labels of bottled bottled water out of Florida, bought the Ginnie Springs water bottling plant in January. The plant has been operating since 1998.
The company has now requested a permit allowing it to pump a maximum of 1.152 million gallons of water a day from those springs for bottling.
Located in Gilgrist County, the springs belong to the Santa Fe River, which has been deemed "in recovery" by the Suwanee Suwanee River Water Management District after years of overpumping. Opponents of the plan say the river system cannot withstand the proposed pumping. Nestlé disputes this, saying that the spring water is a “rapidly renewable resource."
"Suwannee Riverkeeper is opposed to continued promiscuous issuance of permits to withdraw water from the Floridan Aquifer, which is already overtaxed and sinking," said John S. Quarterman, a spokesman for the group dedicated to water conservation and stewardship in statement to The Independent. "The Suwannee River Water Management District not only should reject Nestle's application to withdraw water from the Santa Fe River at Ginnie Springs; it should also revisit Nestle's permit to withdraw water from the Withlacoochee River at Madison Blue Spring."
In order to proceed with the plan, Nestlé needs the Suwanee River Water Management District to renew an expired water use permit held by a local company, Seven Springs. Riza Klemens, the company’s vice president, told the Daytona Beach News Journal that the company does not discuss permit applications in process.
Lindsey Garland, the Public Communications Coordinator of Suwannee River Water Management District, told The Independent that the application Seven Springs filed, filed in March, was incomplete, meaning that the permit request cannot move forward for now.
The plant has operated on a 20-year permit since 1999. The district may now issue only a five-year permit, to allow for more constant review on the impact of the water withdrawal. There is no set date by which the application must be corrected for the process to continue.
Ms Garland also said that the considerable public outrage voiced by local residents and environmental groups over the proposed plan “will definitely be taken into consideration” by management. As of August 26, 861 objections have been filed online by citizens opposing the plan.
This digital effort is led in part by Our Santa Fe River, a non-profit involved with river conservation that’s trying to halt the process.
“The question is how much harm is it going to cause the spring, what kind of change is going to be made in that water system?” said Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson, who runs the non-profit, in an interview with The Guardian.
She also said that “Few places on Earth have as many turtle species living together” in the river system. That diversity, she says, will be threatened by the plan.
Nestlé employs 800 people in Florida, less than the number of people who filed complaints again the plan. In 2017, the company was found to be bottling and selling water it had no legal right to use in California. Last year, a letter signed by the company seeking to weak plastics use laws in the EU was leaked to the public.
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