Two California Environmental Groups Sue FDA For Nestle Water Pumping Information

August 7, 2017

Two California environmental groups have filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for information about Nestle, who has been diverting “tens of millions of gallons” of water from a California creek for bottled water, according to Courthouse News.

The Story of Stuff Project and Courage Campaign groups announced the lawsuit in a federal Freedom Of Information Act complaint.

The lawsuit claims that the FDA did not respond to their FOIA request in a timely manner and failed to indicate whether it will come through with the records.

Americans use 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour, and according to Ban The Bottle, Americans drink about 50 billion bottles of water a year. Nestle, however, only pays the federal government $524 a year to redirect the water from the forest. Considering the costly droughts that have parched California in recent years, Nestle’s use of the state’s water has become a major source of controversy.

In the United States, there are about 16,000 municipal water treatment facilities in operation, and many times, bottled water and tap water are virtually indistinguishable. Still, former Nestle Waters North America CEO Tim Brown showed no remorse about the company’s actions.

“The fact is, if I stop bottling water tomorrow, people would buy another brand of bottled water,” said Brown. “People need to hydrate. As the second-largest bottler in the state, we’re filling a role many others are filling. It’s driven by consumer demand; it’s driven by an on-the-go society that needs to hydrate. Frankly, we’re very happy they are doing it in a healthier way.”

While the annual cost of civil lawsuits to the U.S. economy is $239 billion, there’s no word yet as to the cost of this case in particular. Rather than money, these groups simply want to obtain the FDA records prior to the California State Water Resources Control Board filing a report on conflicted water right around the San Bernardino National Forest. Once the report is issued, the general public will have 30 days to comment.

The eight-page lawsuit states, “The defendant’s violation of law has denied plaintiffs the information to which they are entitled, and plaintiffs and their members are injured by its inability to protect the San Bernardino National Forest, and by the deprivation of government documents to which they are entitled.”

The groups’ ultimate goal, of course, is to stop Nestle from taking “tens of thousands” of gallons from Strawberry Creek, 70 miles east of Los Angeles, every single day.

“We take our responsibility as a water steward in California seriously and have cooperated with the State Water Resources Control Board’s requests for documents and information,” Nestle said in a statement.

The two groups acting as plaintiffs in this case sued the U.S. Forest Service in California back in October 2015 for allowing Nestle to renew a permit that was shown to have expired almost 30 years ago.

However, less than one year later in October 2016, U.S. District Judge Jesus Bernal decided that Nestle did, in fact, have the authority to renew its permit, originally filed in 1988.

But ultimately, the International Bottled Water Association trade group cites that bottled water makes up less than .01% of the nation’s water use.

“Despite the bottled water industry’s size, the amount of water used is relatively tiny compared to tap water volumes,” they said.