I am all for economic development for Fryeburg, but never at the cost of the town’s very existence. The elegant beauty of the town and its clean water are the lifeblood of our community. While prolific wells all over the town and in surrounding villages go dry, town selectman wholeheartedly support a 45-year contract between Nestlé Waters and the Fryeburg Water Company with virtually no public support.

Fryeburg is blessed with a town hall government, giving us, its citizens, the ability to protect ourselves from irresponsible companies such as the Swiss-based Nestlé. The company profits immensely from mining local water with little to no oversight and very little monetary benefit to the town.

While Fryeburg’s selectmen seem to have residents’ best interests at heart, they consistently disregard residents’ concerns, especially with our water. Community outrage, common sense and an aquifer study’s recommendations have no bearing on the selectmen’s support for Nestlé.

At a packed Maine Public Utilities Commission hearing in 2013, the overwhelming majority of people spoke against the proposed contract between Fryeburg Water Company and Nestlé Waters.

One of the few to speak in favor was Selectman Rick Eastman, stating the contract could entice Nestlé to open a bottling plant. Eastman owns Maine Pure, a water bottling company with an extraction permit allowing withdrawal of large amounts of water, as well as an EPA permit to expel water from the bottling process. A bottling plant could increase his company’s proprietary value exponentially.

Is it a conflict of interest for a selectman to advocate for something residents are against if he stands to gain from it?

The Peter Garret aquifer study recommended that the town have the authority to limit water withdrawals for bottling and to hire a biologist to study the impact of water extraction on biota and low water overflow. No biologist is employed and there is no clear town authority outlined in the contract. Selectmen tout the study, funded by Nestlé, regarding how much water they think is available and that it is OK to keep on pumping while there isn’t even an EPA environmental impact study. That is irresponsible.

Who benefits here, and who is set up to lose?

With regards to Selectman Janice Crawford’s accusation that the trustees for the Fryeburg Water District are not abiding the will of the people by supporting the intervention into the contract in question, I attended many Water District meetings before the current board was elected and residents decided to elect a new board with people to keep an eye on Nestlé, look out for the townspeople, keep water pure and plentiful and under the control of the people.

The trustees support the intervention into the proposed contract because the people have willed them to do so.

If selectmen listened to the townspeople at the PUC meeting, they would have supported the intervention and been working hard to protect the town’s water instead of following an agenda that could be perceived as personal.

Crawford claims Nestlé is a “responsible corporate citizen.” In 1977, its aggressive marketing of breast milk substitutes to women in poor nations caused unnecessary infant deaths. That prompted a global boycott, still in effect, supported by 200 groups in more than 100 countries. They have pumped water during the drought in California using sovereignty of the Morongo tribe to claim an exemption to regulations designed to save water. In Colombia, Nestlé executives have been investigated in connection with the murder of union leader Luciano Enrique Romero.

Many Fryeburg residents are against Nestlé and its relentless pursuit of the town’s water. Some townspeople say their wells have run dry and others don’t want town officials to sell residents short.

Can Nestlé really be a good steward of our aquifer when its former CEO and current chairman, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, believes it is an extreme point of view that, as a human being, you should have a right to water? He also says water is “the most important raw material in the world.”

Why should Fryeburg residents let Nestlé profit and control the town’s most precious commodity? And why should Fryeburg’s selectmen support that exploitation?

Justin Lipson is the co-founder of Community Water Justice. He lives in North Fryeburg.


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