WAKULLA COUNTY RESIDENTS WANT CONTROL OF THEIR WATER--Andrew Stelzer

09/13/04

The construction of new water bottling plants in northern Florida, has citizens upset at the Nestle company’s gradual takeover of the local water supply. WMNFs’ Andrew Stelzer has the story.

ACT “Water is a commons, it belongs to the people who own property. Linda Jameson is the chair of the big bend area sierra club.

ACT “It’s a bit strange for a big company come in here and take our water away.�

In 2003, when a private landowner In Wakulla county sold the rights to their water to the nestle company, some citizens were upset about the project for many reasons, according to Wakulla county commissioner Howard Kessler says

ACT “There is a great deal of citizen opposition taken out of the county for various reasons—environmental issue, it’s a great concern to our citizens. That will be before us continually be in front of us, is the issue of transports of water out of our county the overwhelming majorityv

Because Nestle was taking the water across county lines, their permit was almost revoked but the company agreed to build a bottling plant nearby, which created 77 new jobs for area residents. Citizens were hoping to mount their own challenge to the permit, based on the fact that it transported water across district lines. But John Dinges is the director of resource management at the Suwannee river management district, says that challenge would have been in vain.

ACT-Dinges “It’s called the local sources first legislation, language was added to the statute, transport waster across county boundaries regarding transport, but bottled water was exempted…�

ACT-Dinges “There are additional criteria for any interdistrict transfer, but there is an exception in there for water being transported for bottling, so it may not jean a whole lot in terms of moving water in tanker trucks for battling purposes.�

Currently, Wakulla County is deciding whether to give a zoning exception to nestle to build another facility in an area that’s largely residential and agricultural land. Again, county commissioner Howard Kessler.

ACT “Where this project is being proposed is in the proximity of 2 schools, its residential and so does our county want to have an industrial operation ion that location?

Jameson from the Sierra club says the system is not set up to benefit the people or their local community.

ACT “Water law around here needs lot of revision and needs to be on a domicile basis, not so that huge companies can just take it because our laws are inadequate.

ACT “Water law in this country is not done in a way that shows scientific understanding of our water systems, and that’s to the detriment of the poor and defenseless, it should not be commoditized, it shouldn’t be about if you are rich or poor.�

And the Northwest Florida water management district has proposed a rule that the department of environmental protection will review water-hauling permits if they are challenged.

ACT “I don’t look at it as a gov taking a stand against nestle, they are trying to create a level playing field and preserve natural resources.�

The county planning director will have a report back to the commission on the plans for the new water bottling plant—that briefing is scheduled for September 20th.

For WMNF news, I’m Andrew Stelzer

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