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Community opponents of the Nestlé’s 10-year, 1041 permit extension to their spring and pumping station near Johnson Village, gathered on Oct. 6 in Thonoff Park across from the Chaffee County Courthouse in Salida to protest. The crowd of about 20 held protest signs and some even wore costumes. All the protesters wore masks and practiced social distancing.

Protesters gather in Thonhoff Park. Photo by Brooke Gilmore.

Bob Parker told Ark Valley Voice “they want to have an extension for their ten-year lease for another ten years to take 200-acre feet of water annually out of the Ruby Mountains Spring and truck it down to Denver where they bottle it in plastic bottles somewhere to the tune of five billions pounds of plastic bottles every ten years. We’re arguing with them about that. We are trying to get the county commissioners to understand this is a bad lease and get them to reject the 1041 permit that they had originally given them.”

Another protester explained the research she had done after watching the film Bottled Life, on YouTube. “Shapleigh and Newfield, Maine overcame drilling and digging for water. They declared water to be a fundamental right. Water belongs to nature and may be used only by the local residents. Large scale pumping and commercialization of water is no longer permitted. This right is acknowledged in the constitution. The right space ordinance has to do with the constitution instead of the regulatory approach.  The general comment of untitled nation convention on economic social and cultural rights delegates that the human right to drinking water is fundamental to life and health.”

Photo by Dan Smith.

Physician Cindy Parker explained “we are working very hard to prevent the commissioners from extending the Nestlé permit for another ten years. They’ve already taken water. Part of what we’re so concerned about because we are primarily a climate change organization is the fact that if we’re going to adapt successfully to a changing climate, we need to leave ecosystems as much intact as possible. Leave the water that’s in the valley that is nourishing those ecosystems, leave it alone as possible. Nestlé’ taking the water is totally unnecessary. Most people in this state buying bottled water have perfectly good municipal water systems.”

Parker went on to say “Municipal water is often safer than bottled water. It’s more strictly regulated, its regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency and the state public health organization as well, whereas bottled water is only regulated by the FDA and the restrictions are still not as tight as municipal water systems.”

Parker explained that in her opinion, Chaffee County approving this permit it is a tremendous amount of waste for no particularly good reason except to make Nestlé more money. “Taking our water and putting it in plastic bottles which are made out of petroleum takes a lot more water to make a bottle of water than you get when you drink a bottle of water,”. All that plastic waste has to go somewhere. There’s no need for this. It’s not a benefit to the community. We don’t get a lot of tax money from it; we don’t get a lot of benefits from it but it’s a cost to us from the loss of our natural resources and the potential harm that could come to use as the climate changes,” said Parker. “I am very concerned about how this impacts people’s health.”

The public hearings regarding the 1041 permit are set for 5:00 pm.  Oct. 20 and 9:00 a.m. Oct 22 at the Chaffee County Fairgrounds.