Each day, Nestlé Canada Inc. has permission to withdraw more than one million litres of water from a well in the town of Hillsburgh, Ontario, and bottle it for sale. The Ontario government told Nestlé to reduce the amount of water it pumps from this aquifer during drought conditions. In 2012, Nestlé persuaded the government to remove these restrictions even though their removal might endanger the neighbouring community’s source of groundwater. In 2013, Wellington Water Watchers and The Council of Canadians sought Ecojustice’s help to challenge this deal at Ontario’s Environmental Review Tribunal.
At first, both Nestlé and the government tried to bar the groups from participating in the decision-making process. But Ecojustice staff argued that concerned citizens must be allowed to scrutinize a deal that affects their groundwater. The Tribunal agreed. Then we used scientific and legal arguments to show the Tribunal why this deal benefited Nestlé more than the local community.
The Tribunal decided that the deal appeared to be against the public interest and needed more public scrutiny. It ordered a full hearing. But before a hearing date was set, Nestlé withdrew their appeal and agreed to restrict the amount of water it pumps from the Ontario community during drought conditions. This victory protects the community’s groundwater and is the first of its kind in Ontario’s history.