Community water needs will be met first, Nestlé says of plan to share Middlebrook well

Nestlé Canada say community water needs will be top priority as it pitches a burgeoning partnership between the company and Centre Wellington township.
Nestle Waters Canada's plant in Aberfoyle bottles and packages 56 million cases of spring water a year. The company says its spring water source at Middlebrook will be "a supplementary well to its main production well in Aberfoyle." (Colin Butler/CBC)

Nestlé Waters Canada say community water needs will be top priority as it pitches a burgeoning partnership between the company and the Township of Centre Wellington. 

Much has been made about a battle between the two to buy the rights to the Middlebrook well water source in Centre Wellington. 

But now, it appears the company is trying to make amends. 

"The minute we found out the township was the anonymous bidder, we immediately started thinking of ways that we could partner," said Andreanne Simard, a hydrologist with Nestlé Canada.  

"Now it's time to move forward and work together on a Centre Wellington-made solution," Simard told The Morning Edition host Craig Norris Thursday morning. 

Partnership pitched Monday

Nestlé representatives appeared before Centre Wellington council Monday night to propose discussions on how the company and municipality could partner on the future of the Middlebrook well.

Though what that partnership will look like is unclear.

Simard said Thursday that as soon as her company learned that Centre Wellington had bid on the Middlebrook well, Nestlé began to brainstorm ways the two could work together.

"It will be something specific to Centre Wellington and to ensure that their community water supply needs are met first."

The township still has to decide if it wants to be part of this proposed partnership. In an email to the CBC News, Centre Wellignton Mayor Kelly Linton said council has not yet met to discuss the idea. 

But the two have plenty of time to work things out. 

In October the Government of Ontario issued a two-year moratorium on new and expanded water bottling operations, government scientists get a better idea of groundwater supply, and review the existing rules around water taking permits. 

Advocates want open door meetings

Mike Nagy, chairman of Wellington Water Watchers, said he believes there is much going on behind the scenes and he would like to know if Linton has had closed-door meetings with Nestlé already.

"The public has said no to Nestlé and so should the mayor and [the] Township of Centre Wellington," Nagy said in an email. 

"The rules have changed and this water will be 100% needed for community growth and can in no way be associated with or compete with corporate removal and profiting. We cannot have our water used as a political pawn."

Linton would not comment on if he has met with Nestlé about the proposed partnership.

Nestlé vs. Centre Wellington

Some media outlets have reported Nestlé "outbid" the township for access to its own water, and the purchase was denounced by water advocates. 

In fact, the well had been for sale for 10 years, when Nestle made its conditional offer in 2014.

This summer, the company learned a second anonymous buyer had come forward to purchase the well with no conditions. ​Nestlé then waived all conditions and went ahead with its purchase. 

Nestlé said after the deal closed, the company learned the second buyer was the Township of Centre Wellington.

Nestlé has two other water permits in this part of Ontario; one in Aberfoyle and another in Erin, and the company says the Middlebrook water source will be a supplementary well to its plant in Aberfoyle. 

With files from the CBC's Kate Bueckert