As a state representative, I am afforded a bird’s-eye view on happenings around the state. This year, water extraction received a lot of attention, both in Augusta and in local communities. Although all manners of user rely on Maine’s vast groundwater resources, one of the very smallest and most responsible users is getting particular attention — Poland Spring.

Nowhere is this more evident than in coastal York County, where the town of Wells is currently considering adoption of a local groundwater extraction ordinance. While the process has been responsible and methodical, some individuals have been engaging in hyperbole and playing loose with the facts. Perhaps I can offer some perspective from my neck of the woods, where Kingfield went through the same process less than five years ago, when Poland Spring unveiled plans to build a bottling plant in town. 

Kingfield did an admirable job of crafting a strong ordinance that both protected the aquifer and helped create jobs and economic opportunity for the community. The ordinance was overwhelmingly approved by the Kingfield voters. The Planning Board then considered Poland Spring’s application for its plant, and sought advice from an independent geologist hired by the town. The Planning Board set a conservative, sustainable withdrawal limit in the permit it eventually approved.

A permit from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection was also required, as it will be in Wells. Monthly monitoring reports ensure accountability and transparency at all times. The combination of state and local regulation provides redundant and rigorous oversight, while still allowing Poland Spring to operate responsibly and create good jobs.

That’s exactly what this state and our local communities need to be doing. We need to encourage companies that create good-paying jobs to invest in our towns and expand in Maine. Managing our natural resources to provide jobs has gone on in this state for centuries.

As a legislator, I am all too aware of the decline in jobs in the manufacturing sector. These jobs must be replaced, or Maine will continue to suffer.

Poland Spring is one of the few companies looking to invest in Maine in this difficult economic climate. The company recently built its $60 million bottling plant close to my legislative district in Kingfield, spending $19 million with local contractors and putting several hundred Mainers to work during its construction.

More than 41 families living within 20 miles of the Kingfield facility now enjoy good-paying jobs with health care, dental and other great benefits. Another 20 have part-time or seasonal work. Because of their dedicated local workers, the Poland Spring plant has the highest rate of efficiency and recycling of any Nestlé Waters bottling facility in the country.

To mark this environmental achievement, and similar ones at its Poland Spring and Hollis facilities, the DEP recently named Poland Spring an Environmental Leader in Maine. I’ve seen that leadership firsthand through Poland Spring’s work across the state.

If we want to be more than a tourist destination, with more than service jobs, we must both protect and add value to our natural resources to create jobs that provide a good living for Maine families. Poland Spring does precisely that by responsibly using our abundant groundwater resources to create the world’s finest bottled spring water.

The citizens of Wells have an extraordinary opportunity to support and pass their own local water extraction ordinance. The citizens of Kingfield have proved that a strong local ordinances can protect the environment and help create good jobs. Poland Spring has proved they are a responsible steward of our ground water resources with a commitment to investing in local communities.

Rep. Tom Saviello, U-Wilton, represents House District 90 in Franklin County.

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