Green groups sue Forest Service to stop Nestlé bottling operation


Environmental groups have filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service for allegedly allowing Nestlé to bottle water from California's San Bernardino National Forest with a permit that expired 27 years ago.

The lawsuit from the Story of Stuff Project, the California-based Courage Campaign Institute and the Center for Biological Diversity against the agency challenges Nestlé’s four-mile pipeline that siphons water from San Bernardino National Forest’s Strawberry Creek to bottling operations in Ontario, Calif.

According to court documents filed with the Eastern District Court of California on Tuesday, the water line supplies Nestlé’s "Arrowhead" brand of bottled water. 

The groups asked the court to immediately shut down the pipeline and order the Forest Service to conduct a full permitting process that includes environmental reviews.

In 2014 alone, the groups allege that an estimated 28 million gallons were piped away from the forest to be bottled and sold under Nestlé’s Arrowhead brand of bottled water. Though they said Nestlé’s permit expired in 1988, the piping system remains in active use, siphoning about 68,000 gallons of water a day out of the forest last year.  

“We Californians have dramatically reduced our water use over the past year in the face of an historic drought, but Nestlé has refused to step up and do its part,” Michael O’Heaney, Story of Stuff Project’s executive director, said in a news release. “Until the impact of Nestlé’s operation is properly reviewed, the Forest Service must turn off the spigot.” 

Nestlé Waters North America Spokeswoman Jane Lazgin said the company was just learning of the lawsuit Tuesday evening and was not in a position to comment.

“Our permit, as told to us by the forest service, remains valid and in effect,” she told The Hill. “And we continue to pay the required fee for the pipeline use and transportation of water at that site.”

The company, Lazgin said, is continuing to offer bottled-water products as more and more consumers move away from caloric drinks.

“We are and have been really strengthening our efforts to conserve water in California, recognizing the severity of the drought there,” she said. “And we are doing our part by re-using water in our factories for cleaning and for cooling our equipment.” 

This story was updated at 5:25 p.m. to include comments from Nestlé.