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September 29, 2020

Poland Spring seeks water sustainability certification for its Maine bottling plants

A sign that says Poland Spring Nestle Waters Kingfield Bottling Plant with rural fields surrounding it, and pine trees in the background Photo / Maureen Milliken Nestle Waters, owner of Poland Spring Bottling Co., is seeking local water stewardship through the Alliance of Water Stewardship for its three bottling plants in Maine, and seeking permits for a 47-acre solar array at its Hollis plant.

Nestle Waters North America, owner of Poland Spring Bottling Co., is pursuing certification that ensures its water is meeting certain standards both inside and outside of its bottling plant.

The Alliance for Water Stewardship certification application for the company's bottling operations in Hollis, Kingfield and Poland comes at the same time it's announced a planned 10kw solar array at its Hollis plant.

Nestle Waters North America [Nasdaq: NSRGY] is aiming to certify all its bottling sites by 2025 under the rigorous Alliance for Water Stewardship standards, the company has said. Nestle Waters North American has a portfolio of about a dozen brands, of which Poland Spring is one.

As of August, it had certified 30 sites around the world, 10 in the United States. If certified, the three Maine sites would join 15 AWS certified sites overall in the U.S.

Under the Alliance for Water Stewardship certification process, independent auditors review the water bottling sites surrounding watersheds and assess water quality, water quantity and the overall water-related health of the area.

The process also includes getting feedback from area stakeholders that play a role in what happens within the watershed. A virtual stakeholder watershed audit meeting is scheduled for Friday on the Maine application.

Measuring responsible water stewardship

While a Poland Spring spokesman told Mainebiz that the company isn't ready yet to discuss the Maine AWS certification, an FAQ on Nestle Waters' website about the process says the certification is "the first-ever comprehensive global standard for measuring responsible water stewardship across social, environmental, and economic criteria."

"These factors span geographical and socioeconomic lines, such as the impact upon disadvantaged communities with difficulties accessing water; environmental quality at water-related locations like marshes; and whether water is being managed in a way that provides a positive economic benefit," the site says.

The four things the application hinges on are:

  • Good water governance: the effective and responsible management of water resources;
  • Sustainable water balance: managing water use to ensure the rate and quantity of water withdrawal does not outpace the natural replenishment of the source;
  • Good water quality: taking steps to preserve, and even improve, the quality of available water resources;
  • Healthy status of important water-related areas: Identifying and protecting areas of the watershed that are critical to the health and sustainability of local water resources.

Poland Spring maintains spring sources in the western Maine towns of Fryeburg, Dallas Plantation, Poland, Pierce Pond Township, Kingfield, Denmark, Hollis, Lincoln and Rumford.

The certification relies heavily on understanding stakeholder interests, the company said a news release announcing AWS Platinum certification for a bottling plant in Ontario, Calif. 

The stakeholder input helps highlight important opportunities and developing an appropriate water stewardship plan that includes those interests, the company said. That certification made Nestle Waters the first food and beverage company in the world to earn the rating, according to the Alliance for Water Stewardship.

The efforts with stakeholders are "increasingly important when applying for an advanced-level certification," the company said. "As a site implements water stewardship activities (such as habitat restoration or data gathering efforts) and discloses the results of water stewardship efforts, it is critical to obtain honest stakeholder feedback regarding actions and impacts," it said. "Only through open dialogue, based on trust between parties, can ongoing improvements be achieved."

Hollis solar array

Nestle Waters is also seeking permits from the York County town of Hollis and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection for a 10-megawatt array that will provide 20% to 25% of the energy at the Hollis location. Plans are to break ground in April, with the project completed in spring 2022. The project developer is EnterSolar, which is based in New York City.

The solar array, planned for 47 acres at the Killick Pond road site, would be one of the largest contiguous solar arrays in Maine, the company said.

"At Poland Spring, we have a well-established track record of managing Maine's water resources responsibly and sustainably for the long term," said Cameron Lorrain, Northeast regional technical and production director for Nestlé Waters.

Lorrain said that with the solar project, "We are planning to go further and are proud to align with the greenhouse gas emission reduction goals championed by Gov. Janet Mills and recently codified in Maine law." Mills has set statutory goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Maine by 45% by 2030 and at least 80% by 2050. A law passed earlier this year also calls for the state's Renewable Portfolio Standard to increase to 80% by 2030 and 100% by 2050.

Civil engineers for the job will be Cumberland-based Sevee & Maher Engineers, which is experienced in solar projects.

Annual greenhouse gas emission reductions resulting from the are estimated to be the equivalent to removing more than 2,500 passenger vehicles from the road every year or producing enough renewable electricity annually to power the equivalent of 1,998 homes.

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