Environment Pollution

Bottled Water Battle With Billionaire Polluter

Let us put a face to a name here, it’s yet another “unacceptable face of capitalism” ….and yet another bloody billionaire….80 years old too. Meet Pierre Papillaud. He is listed as a Businessman and his speciality is buying up water supplies. He really makes his money out of selling plastic bottles, which incidentally happen to be filled with water, but as soon as they are empty they get to be somebody else’s problem, especially when it comes to they’re disposal. He has pissed off the people of a small town called Weed in California by buying into a timber company called Roseburg Forest Products.


A town called Weed in California, just south of the Oregon border and in the shadow of Mount Shasta, is best known for its offbeat name and its appearance in John Steinbeck’s classic “Of Mice and Men.” Weed is also home to around 2,500 people. But now this small town in Siskiyou County is the focal point of a fight between a community’s right to local water, and a company’s right to sell it. In an area still recovering from the devastating 2014 Boles Fire, Weed is the David trying to find a voice against a Goliath that insists the town’s water supply is better managed by bottling it and exporting it to Japan.

Weed’s residents often tap into the nearby Beaughan Spring, especially during times of drought. Many homes scattered around this remote area in Northern California have piped this source of water onto their properties for years. The land surrounding the spring is owned by Roseburg Forest Products, a timber company, who entered into a controversial agreement with Crystal Geyser, the bottled water company {who are part of a conglomerate co-owned by the French billionaire Pierre Papillaud}.

Earlier this decade, Coca-Cola abandoned a local bottling plant and this is now re-opened and used by Crystal Spring. Papillaud is the owner of several bottled water brands world-wide so he is obviously a firm believer in water being a private commodity, not something that just falls from the sky on everyone.

The Beaughan Spring, along with other springs surrounding Mount Shasta, are considered sacred to local Native Americans, but it is the next one on Papillaud’s shopping list and he doesn’t seem to give a toss about ancient rights. Historically, Weed residents have been granted access to this water for $1 a year for the past half-century, but this year, Roseburg hiked up the annual fee to $97,500, with a stipulation in the contract that directs the town to find other water sources of water for its citizens. As a result tensions flared between one of the poorer regions in California and the companies determined to win this water war, the New York Times reported back in October.

The mayor of Weed, Ken Palfini, told Thomas Fuller of the Times that Papillaud’s relations with local officials bordered on abusive. Weed officials claimed the octogenarian demanded that the city release its rights to the Beaughan Spring, threatening to “blow up the bottling plant” if he didn’t get his way. Papillaud’s son eventually visited the city to apologize, but the damage was done.

Residents and civic officials in Weed insist they have documentation proving water rights to this spring. Those claims date back to when the previous owner of Roseburg’s timber lands, International Paper, sold those holdings in 1982 with the stipulation that the city could have unrestricted access to this source of water. And in any event, the city insists it has no other options in an area where some sources of water could be extremely toxic.

The Times story outlines Roseburg’s suggestion that the city drill a well elsewhere on the company’s property, but the city balked at the fact it is located only a few hundred yards from what is now an EPA Superfund site. For a city with a municipal budget of only a few million dollars, to spend as much as $2 million to drill a well in a dubious area makes no sense: No one wants anything remotely close to the Flint water crisis.

Earlier this summer, an alliance of citizens filed a lawsuit against Roseburg and the city of Weed. The plaintiffs argue the arrangement between the city and Roseburg was made without a proper environmental review. And they’re seeking an extension of the current water lease.

Weed citizens are emboldened by a recent decision by the Montana Supreme Court where the state’s high court ruled in August that the city of Missoula could seize water sources by eminent domain in order to protect municipal water supplies for the public good.

Papillaud, meanwhile, did not help his company’s cause, as he downplayed local concerns over water in Weed by rationalizing that there is no “blood water” or anything nefarious such as child labour involved. It sounds like Senility doesn’t seem to recognise money.


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Another great site by the Dangerous Globe

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Meg McQueen
Meg McQueen
7 years ago

This is soooo good. I am now a dedicated fan xx