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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Las Vegas SUN: Bottled Water Giant Becomes Target

Bottled Water Giant Becomes Target

FRYEBURG, Maine (AP) -

In an environmentally conscious state with a lackluster economy, Poland Spring has been a decades-long delight: a nonpolluting industry that relies on a renewable resource to provide hundreds of good-paying jobs in small towns where they are often hard to come by.

The clear plastic bottle of spring water with the dark green label has become as much a part of Maine's image as a pair of L.L. Bean boots. The company's longtime slogan says it all: "Poland Spring. What it means to be from Maine."

But the love affair is showing signs of strain.

Poland Spring is a target of a statewide citizen initiative campaign to impose what is thought to be a first-in-the-nation tax on the water it draws from Maine's underground aquifers. At the same time, the company's expansion plans are running into local opposition from residents who are annoyed by tanker truck traffic and worry about their groundwater drying up.

The initiative campaign has prompted Poland Spring to suspend plans to add a third Maine bottling plant to its existing facilities in Poland and Hollis.

Its parent company has even warned that approval of the 20-cent-per-gallon tax could force Poland Spring to abandon the state.

"If this tax ever were to be approved, we would have to seriously re-evaluate our ability to continue to do business in Maine," said Kim Jeffery, president of Nestle Waters North America, a unit of Swiss giant Nestle SA, the world's biggest food and beverage company.

It's a surprising turn of events for one of the state's best-known economic successes, a business that was mired in bankruptcy when it was acquired by Perrier 25 years ago and grew in line with America's thirst for bottled water. In the past five years alone, annual sales soared from $406 million to $624 million.


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Las Vegas SUN: Bottled Water Giant Becomes Target 


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