By Alexis Bonogofsky
Donna Diehl, a 55-year-old school bus driver from Kunkeltown, Pennsylvania, a small historic town located on the edge of the Poconos, wanted to do three things this year: drive the bus, paint her bathroom and learn to crochet. Instead, Diehl, along with dozens of her neighbours, is spending her time trying to stop the largest food and beverage corporation in the world from taking her community’s water, putting it in bottles and selling it for a massive profit.
Nestlé Waters, the North American subsidiary of the Swiss-owned Nestlé Corporation, had been active in Kunkeltown for years, conducting well testing on a privately owned property adjacent to Diehl’s home. Last summer, residents noticed Nestlé had rented an office in the local community center. Word spread, and with some investigation, Diehl and her neighbors found out that the transnational corporation had been active in the community as early as 2012, testing water quality and quantity with the ultimate goal of constructing and operating a bulk water extraction facility.
In the permit application that Nestlé Waters filed with the Township, it states the company is proposing to drill two large wells, pump 200,000 gallons of water per day from the aquifer, put it in trucks and transfer it to an existing bottling facility near Allentown, about 20 miles away. It expects 60 truck trips through the town per day. And Nestlé isn’t going away anytime soon: It plans to pump for 10 years with an option to continue pumping for an additional 15 years, leading to the removal of 73 million gallons of water from the aquifer over the life of the wells.
Concerned residents dove into their local township files and found out that in May 2014, an ordinance was surreptitiously changed in the Eldred Township zoning rules to allow bulk water extraction to occur in a commercial zone. That small, but important rule change opened the gate for Nestlé to submit a permit application for bulk water extraction, which, before May 2014, was explicitly illegal in places zoned for commercial use.
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