ELDRED TOWNSHIP, MONROE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – A small community in the Poconos won its battle against a big company trying to expand in their town. Nestle Waters applied to extract at least 200,000 gallons of water daily from a Kunkletown stream. Wednesday night, Nestle made an unexpected announcement.
“It has consumed my life”, says Donna Deihl, lifelong resident of Kunkletown.
For Donna Deihl, the past seven months were filled with stress and uncertainty.
“Knocked on doors, tell our neighbors what was going on. Getting people to go to meetings. I had meetings here in my yard,” adds Deihl.
In December, Nestle Waters filed an application to extract water from a local spring. It would be used in Nestle’s Deer Park brand bottles.
“They know there’s liquid gold in those hills. They know our water is pristine,” she adds.
Eldred Township and it’s residents were immediately concerned about their water supply, declining property values, and traffic.
“The trucks! 100-120 18 wheelers in little Kunkletown every day!” adds Deihl.
Donna and many in the town of 3,000 fought back.
“People here are invested in where they want to live the rest of their lives and are willing to fight to the death,” says Barbara Meadows of Kunkletown.
A regular monthly meeting took an exciting turn for many Kunkletown residents Wednesday, when a Nestle representative stood up and read a statement. It said: “We have not been successful in gaining the same acceptance here in Eldred Township as we have in other communities that host our operations. Nestle Waters is withdrawing its pending zoning permit application.”
“The room went crazy. We clapped, we applauded, standing ovation. We cried,” adds Deihl.
Residents say they’ve gained much more than a “small-town victory”.
“We have tremendous feeling of unity and strength,” says Mary Anne Clausen, Chair, Eldred Township Board of Supervisors.
FULL STATEMENT FROM NESTLE WATERS:
Good evening. Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you all this evening. As you know, Nestle Waters’ Special Exception Zoning Permit Application for the development of the Chestnut Springs project is in front of the Eldred Township Zoning Hearing Board.
Over the last year, I have come to know many of you in this room personally. I’m thankful for the dialogue we’ve had and the helpful information you’ve shared. Nestle Waters has dedicated more than 300 hours to engaging with the community and answering your questions.
The robust application package we submitted contains several third-party scientific reports that demonstrate the proposed water withdrawals can be done in an environmentally sustainable manner. We’re committed to being good stewards of the environment, as we’ve demonstrated in other spring water facilities in eastern Pennsylvania.
But we recognize that sound science and resource sustainability are only part of the equation when we select a location for a potential spring water facility. A multitude of factors go into any business decision we make. We also consider long-term source water quality, as well as community sentiment and our partnership with the source owner. Logistics and site development also play a role. Although the project was designed to comply with all applicable regulatory requirements, the proposal involved certain aspects that were less than ideal for Nestle Waters standards — including the need to accommodate multiple uses on a single property, which created logistical and design challenges.
We believe strongly in partnering with communities to create shared value by providing economic and community benefits, and we recognize that strong community relations are important to developing these sites in a manner that works well for all parties. The foundation of these strong relationships is initiating the siting process in an open and transparent manner. It is clear to us that the community in Eldred Township does not believe the process around this project worked the way it was intended and that many of you have concerns about this project. We want you to know that we hear you.
Additionally, Nestle Waters has a project site review team that frequently evaluates each proposed project as it goes through the various stages of development. It is always our policy to continually assess the interests of our partners alongside our own business needs and the interests of the community. As our partner in this project and as a long-standing member of the Eldred Township community, we value the input and insight of landowner Rick Gower.
We have not been successful in gaining the same acceptance here in Eldred Township as we have in other communities that host our operations, and our partner in this effort has also expresses his reservations about moving forward.
So, for all of those reasons and others, and in mutual agreement with the landowner, Nestle Waters is withdrawing its pending zoning permit application.
As we withdraw our permit, we intend to share the data we collected about the aquifer to assist the town as it fosters a better understanding of local water resources, and host final office hours for anyone who may have outstanding questions. We thank you again for making your voices heard and for sharing your concerns with us.