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Est. April 5, 2002
April 21, 2016 - Issue 650

Despite Charges in Flint
Finding Pure Water
Will Be A People’s Issue
For A Long Time


"The alarm should have been raised many
years ago over the acquisition of water
sources by giant companies, both in the
U.S. and around the world. Companies
are cornering the market in water and the
fight against them that should have started
decades ago is just now starting."

The poisoning of the municipal water supply with lead in the city of Flint, Michigan, has opened the way for a wider discussion of water quality for everyone in the country, because water, well before food, is the first element that the body needs to live.

As we have seen in Flint, where about 100,000 people consumed lead in their drinking water for more than a year and the damage that has been done to their bodies, especially the children, will not be known for many years. The children may carry the ills of lead consumption for the rest of their lives. The state’s criminal action in their silence on the issue of lead in the water, caused a national outcry and Governor Rick Snyder’s administration immediately started to take steps to mitigate the damage it had done. Many called for his resignation and others called for his arrest.

Like most issues, the Flint water crisis was front-page news across the country and, just as could be expected, it dropped from top news within a short time. But, the effect of the damage that was done caused a national conversation, if not debate, about the condition of the nation’s water. This week, two low-level officials and a city worker were charged with several crimes in Flint and the attorney general promised that there would be others charged, but it is highly unlikely that the high-level authorities responsible for the debacle will ever be charged. It’s not likely to become a major national story again anytime soon.

A fact of life is that we need the water and, wherever there is need, there is always someone in America who can spot a buck to be made. Sometimes, it can be millions of those bucks and sometimes it can be hundreds of millions of bucks. Years ago, the propaganda machine of Corporate America cranked up and started to create doubt in the minds of the people that the safety and quality of their municipal water supplies were suspect and that the answer was to drink bottled water, 20-ounce bottles or five-gallon bottles (in offices and other workplaces). And, the bottled water “industry” began, until today it is a multi-billion-dollar enterprise.

That water, however, had to come from someplace and that someplace usually was from somebody else’s source. The raid on water sources of the people, urban and rural, started and, in the past two decades, it has reached a high pitch. Of course, they needed to make it look as if their particular brand of water came from a pristine source, so companies began to scour the country for a spring that would be the basis for their marketing. “Our water comes from our own spring in the woods of New York,” they could say in their advertising programs. But there was a limit to the actual spring water, especially considering the success of the propaganda and advertising that claimed that their water was superior to municipal supplies.

Somehow, however, it was discovered that some of the bottled water came from simply turning on the tap of a municipal supply and filtering it (if they even bothered with that), bottling it and selling it as pure-as-the-driven-snow brand water. It looked good, often because the water company tinted the plastic bottle blue, so it even appeared to be pure and directly from the spring. All the firm had to do was include “spring” in the name.

Tests have been done by municipal water systems to show that the water delivered to the people at a fraction of the cost of bottled water was every bit as good as the bottled water. It’s just that the power of municipal water authorities was nothing compared to the advertising and public relations budgets of the big water companies. And, people of every income level continue to buy bottled water, even though it can cost 300 times more to buy the water at your local convenience store than you can get it from your own tap.

The alarm should have been raised many years ago over the acquisition of water sources by giant companies, both in the U.S. and around the world. Companies are cornering the market in water and the fight against them that should have started decades ago is just now starting. And, it’s not that organized groups have not been carrying on the good fight, but they do not have the budgets that the corporations have. Clean drinking water is a human right and access to that right is being bought up by transnational corporations.

A recent example is that of the Nestle corporation, which has been taking water out of California’s forests for 30 years, without a valid permit and for virtually no cost, according to the Courage Campaign of California. According to the group, the U.S. Forest Service has proposed to simply issue a new permit for another five years, without a nod to the years it has taken the people’s water. Last year, Courage Campaign (CC) sued to stop Nestle from taking the tens of millions of gallons from the San Bernardino National Forest, but the lawyers for Nestle have denied CC access to the documents that are needed to make the case that the company should be stopped.

CC noted just this week, “Under a permit that expired 27 years ago, Nestlé pays just $524 a year to take as much as 28 million gallons of water each year, which they then sell in bottles for $2 a liter.” The group has partnered with the Center for Biological Diversity and the Story of Stuff to stop issuance of a new permit. While the case has been held up by the stonewalling of Nestlé’s lawyers, it continued to pump millions of gallons from the national forest, where drought has created a crisis throughout the state. How do these things happen?

“Well, if you're wondering why the Forest Service is giving Nestlé such a sweetheart deal,” CC stated this week, “it might have something to do with the fact that the Forest Service official who for years was responsible for reviewing Nestlé's permit recently left the Forest Service to become a high-paid consultant for Nestlé.” The revolving door between government service and Corporate America has been a scandal for decades, but that’s a subject for long-term debate, but this case is typical.

Privatization of our water affects everyone in the U.S. and the Flint water crisis should be a starting point for all, no matter where they live. What can be done about it? For starters, ask any stores that you frequent, supermarket or convenient store, to stop selling Nestle bottled water. It certainly isn’t the only company that is taking our water and making obscene profits from it, but it will be a good start. Columnist, John Funiciello, is a long-time former newspaper reporter and labor organizer, who lives in the Mohawk Valley of New York State. In addition to labor work, he is organizing family farmers as they struggle to stay on the land under enormous pressure from factory food producers and land developers. Contact Mr. Funiciello and BC.




is published every Thursday
Executive Editor:
David A. Love, JD
Managing Editor:
Nancy Littlefield, MBA
Peter Gamble

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