PORTLAND (AP) – Maine’s highest court issued a ruling Thursday that allows Poland Spring bottled water company to move forward with plans to expand its operations in western Maine.

In its unanimous opinion, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court vacated a lower court ruling that prevented Nestle Waters North America Inc., the parent company of Poland Spring, from building a water loadout facility in Fryeburg.

The decision is the latest step in Poland Spring’s efforts to extract water from aquifers in the town of Denmark and pipe it to Fryeburg. Once there, the water would be stored in a silo and loaded into tank trucks for delivery to Poland Spring’s bottling plants.

The ruling means that Poland Spring can go ahead with building the plant, said Scott Anderson, a Portland attorney who represents a group of Fryeburg residents who oppose Poland Spring’s plans. Residents near the plant will have to contend with up to 50 trucks a day coming and going, he said.

“The main message here is that municipalities dealing with Poland Spring projects really need to be prepared to address these types of developments,” Anderson said.

An official for Poland Spring said the company is pleased with the ruling and eager to get the project under way.

“Poland Spring is anxious to continue investing in the Fryeburg community,” said Mark Dubois, natural resource manager. “We look forward to working with its citizens and community leaders as we invest several million dollars in the local economy.”

Poland Spring submitted an application in 2005 with the Fryeburg Planning Board seeking to build a facility in a rural residential area where 18-wheelers would load up with water extracted from the ground.

The planning board approved the application, but the zoning board of appeals reversed the decision.

Nestle Waters challenged the decision in Oxford County Superior Court, and Justice Roland Cole sent the case back to the planning board for additional findings.

The second time around, the planning board denied Nestle Waters’ application. The case then went before the Maine supreme court.

In Thursday’s ruling, justices wrote that the planning board’s initial approval of Poland Spring’s application complied with the requirements of the town’s land use ordinance. Therefore, the justices wrote, the Superior Court erred in not affirming that decision.

Anderson said residents who oppose the facility are frustrated.

“If you want to build a gravel quarry, you have to meet standards. If you want to build a shopping mall, you have to meet standards,” he said. “But here for a 24-hour trucking facility, there are no standards.”

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