A class-action lawsuit filed on Aug. 15 alleges that Poland Spring, a Nestle company, has been sourcing all of its water from ordinary ground sources while marketing it as "natural spring water."
Poland Spring claims that all of its water is "100-percent natural spring water" from a source in the woods of Maine, but it was recently discovered that the company was filling all of its bottles with nearby groundwater, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Vermont resident Mark J. Patane led 10 other plantiffs in filing the lawsuit on Aug. 15 in federal court, alleging that Nestle had been bottling well water that did not meet federal guidelines to be considered natural spring water and yet had been selling it as such. The suit's allegations include fraud and breach of contract, and is seeking damages in the states of Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York.
Of the eight water plants Nestle uses for Poland Spring water, none fit the FDA's requirements to be classified as spring water.
"The famous Poland Spring in Poland Spring, Maine, which defendant’s labels claim is a source of Poland Spring Water, ran dry nearly 50 years ago," reads the lawsuit, according to the Washington Post.
For water to be considered natural spring water by the FDA, it must exist in the ground and flow naturally towards the surface. There is no stipulation that disallows the pumping of pre-existing groundwater to the surface, which Poland Spring had done.
"Poland Spring is 100-percent spring water,” a spokeswoman wrote in an email to the Washington Post. “The claims made in the lawsuit are without merit and an obvious attempt to manipulate the legal system for personal gain.”
Nestle previously agreed to pay $10 million to charity as a settlement in a 2003 class-action suit for falsely advertising Poland Spring as natural spring water. The company continued to state that it did not purposely mislead consumers about the contents of its water bottles.
"Most of Nestle’s waters are pumped from the ground, but the bigger issue that the regulatory definition of what really counts as spring water is really weak,” said Peter Gleick, a scientist and president emeritus of the Pacific Institute. "No one is really looking over the shoulders of the bottled water companies."
The water Poland Spring uses in its bottles is still safe to drink. All water pumped from the ground is disinfected and purified to ensure quality, according to Philly Voice.
The suit also contends, though, that one or more of the water plants used to collect Poland Spring water is located near a refuse pit, petroleum dump, or an otherwise-contaminated site.