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These Centre County residents have big concerns about Nestle Waters. Here’s what they’re doing about it

Community members attended the “Say No to Nestle” public forum Wednesday at the Central Pennsylvania Institute of Science and Technology.
Community members attended the “Say No to Nestle” public forum Wednesday at the Central Pennsylvania Institute of Science and Technology. kthomasson@centredaily.com

If Nestle Waters builds a bottling plant in Centre County, concerned resident Martin Perna said he and his wife are moving out of Pleasant Gap.

“I love living in Pleasant Gap, but this is a game changer for us,” Perna said. “If Nestle takes our water, we’re out.”

After attending the Spring Township Water Authority (STWA) meeting in February, Perna and his wife Courtney Morris created the Concerned Citizens of Pleasant Gap Facebook group.

He said he was “disturbed” that Nestle Waters’ plans to build a $50 million water bottling facility were so far along, yet the public was “kept in the dark.”

The proposed facility in either Spring or Benner townships would receive water from the STWA, with Nestle Waters purchasing 150 million gallons of water per year at about $4.50 per 1,000 gallons of water, according to Nestle Waters Natural Resources Manager Eric Andreus.

Recently, the Concerned Citizens of Pleasant Gap started a petition in hopes of putting a hold on the project until there’s “proper public discussion,” Perna said.

The petition asks that STWA and the Spring Township Board of Supervisors reject Nestle Waters’ application for water withdrawal and the building of the factory. More than 280 people have signed the petition as of Wednesday.

The group’s primary goal is to prevent the company from taking water from the residents of Spring Township.

“This is a fight that’s much bigger than what people in our small town can handle,” Perna said. “We need all hands on deck.”

He’s also concerned about the number of trucks that would be coming in and out of the area, causing traffic, noise and pollution. Andreus said that there would be about 50-60 trucks per day.

“It’s not unstoked fears; we’ve done our homework,” Perna said. “We’ve spoken to people who have either lost to Nestle or beat Nestle, and the word from them is ‘fight.’ ”

Andreus said that hydrogeologic studies of the source show that Nestle Waters’ proposed water purchase would not adversely affect the local resources.

“Of course, if needed, we could and would adjust our operations to ensure they will not compromise the health and well-being of the community or the environment,” he said in an email.

The Sierra Club Moshannon Chapter and the Nittany Valley Water Coalition on Wednesday co-sponsored a public forum, “Say No to Nestle,” at the Central Pennsylvania Institute of Science and Technology.

Speakers from various environmental groups raised concerns about the “lack of transparency” from local government officials, pushed for the release of Nestle’s water and environmental study and asked the audience to get more involved in the campaign against the bottling facility. Several hundred attended.

Peter Buckland, of State College, urged attendees to help “slow this down because the faster it goes, the worse it will be for everyone.”

Deb Nardone, executive director of ClearWater Conservancy, doesn’t think Nestle Waters should pay the same rate as residents because the water that it purchases will never return back to the Spring Creek watershed, as does the water from flushing toilets and taking showers, she said.

Attendees also had the opportunity to sign the petition at the event. Kelli Hoover, of the Nittany Valley Environmental Coalition, said they will take the petition to the next STWA meeting on March 28, where they hope to have a big turnout. As for next steps in their campaign, Hoover said she encourages people to canvas neighborhoods and attend board of supervisors and planning commission meetings.

Nestle Waters, which held a public information session Monday in front of hundreds at CPI, did not have a presence at Wednesday’s forum, but Andreus responded in an email.

“It’s disappointing that some folks are sharing misinformation about our project and misrepresenting our operations elsewhere and our intentions here,” he said.

He said Nestle Waters wants to continue having productive discussions with community members, so in a few weeks the company will be opening a local office.

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