Nestlé controversy at the Blue Moose

CBC radio holds an hour long discussion at the local coffeehouse regarding a petition with over 200,000 signatures.

Mayor Wilfried Vicktor(centre)discusses the Nestle petition at the Blue Moose Cafe with CBC radio host Gloria Mackarenko.

CBC radio came to the Blue Moose for a live discussion with Mayor Wilfried Vicktor and concerned resident’s over a circulating petition that was started by the environmental group SumOfUs, regarding the Nestlé  plant in Hope, which is currently the largest in B.C. on Monday.

The “Nestlé  is about to suck B.C. dry — for $2.25 per million litres to be exact,” headline of the petition has parties concerned there is an element of truth to it.

A plethora of voices (experts, environmentalists, citizens and First Nations) were heard in the hour long discussion that broached climate change, indigenous rights over the resource and commercial water sales, as well as a lack of comprehensive information available on the subject of where, how much, and for what purpose B.C.’s water is being used.

With the advent of the new Water Sustainability Act that was disclosed by Environment Minister Mary Polak on Friday — it was made clear B.C. will not be the only province that doesn’t subscribe to the regulation of groundwater use.

Polak responded during a press release to the media with this statement.

“People keep saying there’s a deal with Nestlé — there isn’t. They pay the same as any other industrial user, in fact the highest industrial rate, and it goes for anything from hydraulic fracturing to bottled water to those involved in mining for example, any of those heavy industrial uses.”

The rate is low because of the decommodification policy regarding the resource, so as not to be ranked with oil, or mineral under trade agreements that would render provincial input to a minimum, leaving the water market open for foreign bodies to step in. The change in legislation was brought in with the help of industrialists and First Nation’s who are concerned with salmon population and healthy water systems.

The act will ensure that government has a say in the intended use of the water, while maintaining that emergencies such as droughts are dealt with by officials.

Fees are now being enforced to large-scale users, for an annual rate of 85 cents per 1,000 cubic metres of groundwater. According to Polak the Nestlé plant in Hope would pay an estimated $400 for the extraction of 319.5 million litres.

The province would be expecting an additional $5 million from the fees and is also seeking input from the populace until mid-November.

With water shortages and restrictions, perhaps these fees could be put toward long-term solutions for the residents of Hope who are struggling with water shortages and have been hooking into the District’s water supply, until a recent hook-up with a new well was manufactured, offering a solution to what is a long-term issue.

According to MLA Laurie Throness, the amount of money being charged for the regulation of the local water system has been low and has not effectively kept up with increasing changes in supply and demand.

“What began as a really small water district has deteriorated over time, but they were charging so little, they couldn’t really fix the system and they weren’t building up enough of a reserve to fix all of the things that were deteriorating,” he told The Hope Standard.

Calls by citizen’s to have the 753 Waterworks become part of the District of Hope’s water supply have been brought to the table.

“I would definitely support the application,” said Throness.

B.C. is expected to see continuing environmental changes in precipitation levels and warmer weather according to environmental reports, but  according to environmental experts such as Blair King, who can be found at achemistinlangley.blogspot.ca, Nestlé uses less than one per cent of flow from Kawkawa Lake.

If Nestle stopped operating (and put its 75 employees out of work and stopped paying municipal taxes) would there be more water for the rest of us? he says in his blog.

He also writes:

“Absolutely not. Kawkawa Lake drains its excess water into the Fraser River, which drains into the Strait of Georgia, neither the Fraser River at Hope nor the Strait of Georgia is particularly short of water, even in the driest of years.”

Mayor Wilfried Vicktor, also backed the multinational organization operating in Hope, despite the critical climate on the issue.

“Nestle’s been a very good corporate citizen in our community,” he said to B.C. Almanac’s Gloria Mackarenko. “They employ 75 local residents — for a larger community that’s not a big thing but certainly for Hope that is. “Nestlé is a very easy target and unfortunately I think a lot of people are focusing on Nestlé and not taking into account the bigger picture. There are hundreds of commercial industrial heavy water users that should be included in the discussion.”

Premier Christy Clark noted one thing about the hyper-sensationalism of droughts, and forest fires in a press release statement. Clark implied that B.C. residents have no need of bottled water, due to proximity of the best tap water in the world, and subtly suggested that all Nestlé naysayers could simply turn on the tap and scrap the bottles.