Waitsburg Weighs In on Nestle, Declines Offer

Kate Grumbles, News Reporter

The Nestle America company will not build a $50 million water bottling plant in Waitsburg.

Nestle’s proposed project would have tapped Waitsburg’s water supply, using around 150 million gallons of Waitsburg’s spring and well water. The company had offered to build a bottling plant that would provide 50 jobs in the community. Despite environmental concerns about the plastic produced for bottling water and ethical concerns about the privatization of water, the bottled water industry is growing quickly. According to “National Geographic,” Americans bought around 7.9 percent more bottled water in 2015 than in 2014. However, bottled water isn’t gaining any popularity in Waitsburg. Waitsburg residents opposed the Nestle project with public protests, petitions, and anti-Nestle social media pages.

Waitsburg council woman, Kate Hockersmith discussed why she was opposed to Nestle building their facility in Waitsburg.

“It had mostly to do with how many people approached me and told me they didn’t want it here. It was overwhelmingly obvious when we had our first meeting,” Hockersmith said.

The farmers in Waitsburg rely on a sustainable supply of water to further their industry. Their livelihoods would be devastated if Nestle left them too little water for agriculture.

“We are a farming community and the farmers here do not want anything to do with it,” Hockersmith said.

The owner of a studio art business in Waitsburg, Lane Hill, spoke about the environmental concerns a bottling facility would bring.

“The amount of water they’re talking about mining, you’re talking about billions of bottles of water per year that would be shipped out of this area. Very little of those bottles get recycled, most of them end up in the trash or in the ocean.”

Hill spoke about her opposition in general to the idea of water being taken from Waitsburg.

“The idea of mining the water from the area is pretty disturbing to me, whether it was Nestle or anybody else.”

According to Hockersmith, no one in Waitsburg felt that Nestle would help their community.

“We had a public meeting and there were over 100 people there. Nobody said they wanted it here but several people did say they’d like more information.”

Hill spoke about the dangers of accepting a large corporation like Nestle into the Waitsburg community.

“It’s a very large company coming into a very small town. There’s just not a power balance there,” Hill said.

Bruce Lauerman, the Natural Resources Manager for Nestle Waters North America, spoke about the economic benefits that a bottling facility would bring to Waitsburg.

“As a rate-paying customer of the Waitsburg water supply, there would have been significant income in that regard–as well as tax revenue to the county,” Lauerman said. “In addition, local philanthropy is a core aspect of our engagement in every community–from financial donations to product contributions to employee volunteering; NWNA (Nestle Waters North America) seeks opportunities to create shared value in the communities where we live and work.”

Still, Lauerman recognized the Waitsburg community’s ability to make the right choice for their town.

“You don’t want Nestle to come here, we’re gone.” Lauerman said in an article published in August by the “Waitsburg Times.”

Kate Hockersmith spoke about how the Waitsburg community sees water rights. 

“I hope the city can make it clear that we don’t see the water here as a commodity. We do consider it a public resource,” she said. “To keep bringing it up just causes turmoil, and costs money. People here are very happy with their quiet little town.”