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Bottling Giant, Maine Residents Battle Over Water

Bottled water is a hot commodity -- Americans drank almost 9 billion gallons of it last year. But some Maine residents think less of it should come from their state. They are challenging Poland Spring over rights to the state's spring water aquifers. Tom Bearden reports.

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  • RALLY SPEAKER:

    Are you fired up? Yes, that's what I'm talking about.

    TOM BEARDEN, NewsHour correspondent: Bottled water might be popular with those Americans who drank almost 9 billion gallons of it last year. But this crowd says no more of it should be coming from Maine.

  • RALLY SPEAKER:

    Whose water is it?

  • CROWD:

    Ours!

  • RALLY SPEAKER:

    Whose water is it?

  • CROWD:

    Ours!

  • TOM BEARDEN:

    Maine is home to one of the best-selling brands of water in the country, Poland Spring: 700 million gallons of it get put into bottles every year. The protestors insist they should have some say about how much Poland Spring is allowed to pump and where.

  • MAINE RESIDENT:

    You can't just have a meeting with 20 people here.

  • TOM BEARDEN:

    When most of them were not allowed into a Water Board meeting in Kennebunk, they said it was typical of how such deals are made: without enough public input.

  • MAINE RESIDENT:

    You should not advertise it as a meeting for the public and then have a private, closed meeting.

  • TOM BEARDEN:

    The few who were let in argued against a 30-year deal the board was going to make with Poland Spring, which is owned by Nestle Waters, a large multinational corporation.

  • MAINE RESIDENT:

    You live here, and you're responsible to us, not to this corporation, and you cannot violate your public trust. So don't do it. Don't make a bad decision. You will live to regret it, I promise you.

  • TOM BEARDEN:

    Poland Spring's senior natural resources manager Tom Brennan says the protests are short-sighted.

    TOM BRENNAN, senior natural resource manager, Poland Spring: In the years that Nestle has owned the Poland Spring brand, Nestle's invested $430-odd million in the economy of the state. And for a state like Maine, that's a very substantial contribution.