A pile of Poland Spring water bottles. Credit: Brett Weinstein / Wikimedia Commons

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Julia Munsey is the president and CEO of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce.

Since its founding in 1889, the Maine State Chamber of Commerce has grown to become Maine’s largest business association, which today represents a network of 5,000 businesses of all sizes and sectors in every region of Maine. The chamber’s work centers around a mission to promote a positive business climate; strengthen Maine’s economy, workforce and competitiveness; and attract more employers and people to Maine. 

There is so much positive news about Maine being a great place to live, work and do business. Speaking about those is the highlight of what we do at the chamber.

Another part of our role is to support Maine businesses when they are facing challenges, particularly at the Maine Legislature.

One of Maine’s most iconic brands — natural spring water bottling company Poland Spring, which has a 178-year heritage in Maine, is currently facing a number of bills that would severely restrict its business and the availability of its products. One proposal is essentially a de facto ban on bottled water in retail establishments, while another restricts Poland Spring from partnering with local water authorities.

One bill, LD 854, would impose a water withdrawal tax only on Poland Spring, because of its size, and not any other bottled water company. This proposed tax, which would total $50 million annually, would be nearly equivalent to Poland Spring’s entire Maine payroll for 900 employees — leaving the company’s future in Maine and the existence of these well-paying, clean manufacturing jobs highly uncertain.

At Maine’s State House and beyond, it is important to understand that Poland Spring, like all water bottlers, is highly regulated at the local, state and federal levels. Poland Spring is permitted by Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection and regulated by the Maine Public Utilities Commission, the state’s drinking water program, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under the U.S. Clean Water Act

It also should be noted that, combined, all Maine water bottling companies account for less than 1 percent of the water withdrawn from Maine.

LD 854 singles out a sustainable Maine business that, at its core, is a highly responsible water steward.

Poland Spring’s experienced and dedicated team of scientists consistently and carefully monitor all 10 of the company’s springs to ensure water withdrawals are sustainable and do not harm the environment. Poland Spring — and Maine’s economy — depend on a healthy, thriving environment.

Since it was founded in 1845, Poland Spring has been instrumental in expanding Maine’s economy, creating jobs and driving future growth. The Poland Spring plant in Kingfield is a perfect example of how the investment in a bottling plant adds to the vibrancy of the community, creating well-paying jobs with benefits and steady tax revenue for the town.

Additionally, over the last decade, Poland Spring has donated more than $10 million to support education, conservation and other local causes in Maine communities, including The Ecology School and The Dempsey Center. Last year, Poland Spring donated 1 million bottles of water and $1 million to Maine nonprofits in need. That’s exactly the kind of business we want in Maine — the kind that gives back.

The chamber is proud to represent and stand behind Poland Spring and its exemplary environmental stewardship and enormous contributions to Maine’s economy and communities.

The Maine State Chamber of Commerce strongly urges legislators to oppose LD 854 and all other bills that would negatively impact Poland Spring, the livelihood of its 900 Maine employees and our state’s economy. As a state, we must do all we can to support the great businesses we have here like Poland Spring and strengthen Maine’s reputation as a great place to live, work and do business.