There was heated debate at a special council meeting in Guelph, Ont., on Monday, when the issue of Nestlé’s access to water for bottling was on the agenda.

The meeting was the culmination of events that started after Nestle bought a Middlebrook well as a backup for wells it owns in nearby Erin and Aberfoyle, where it operates a bottling plant that employs over 300 people.

Activist had urged the provincial government to deny a water taking-permit at the new well.

In October, the Ontario government sought public comment on a proposed regulation that would impose a moratorium, through 2019, on water-taking permits for new or expanded operations that take groundwater to bottle and sell.

The province’s Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change said it would also stop issuing permits for pump tests that determine the quality and quantity of water available for bottling, until a review of its regulations is complete.

However, Nestlé was still able to apply to renew its water-taking permits for the Erin and Aberfoyle wells, where it can take up to 4.7 million litres a day for bottling.

Monday’s meeting was held to discuss the concerns regarding Nestlé latest water-taking permit application that’s before the provincial government.

Guelph is asking the province not to renew the permit, in part because Nestlé only pays $3.71 for every million litres of water taken.

Council chambers were filled for the five-hour meeting and 50 Nestlé workers arrived an hour early to show their support.

The meeting started with a technical report on Nestlé’s current water-taking permit which states that, under certain extreme conditions, Nestlé’s Aberfoyle activities could one day threaten Guelph’s water supply, if the city grows as expected.

Councillors also heard from scientists, professionals, conservationists, Nestlé workers and several concerned citizens.

Mike Schreiner, Ontario’s Green Party Leader, commented to Guelph council: “Water is a public resource. And I believe governments at all levels have a sacred responsibility to manage water as a public trust, in the public interest and in a way that ensure everyone has a right to access clean drinking water.”

While Nestlé Waters Canada president Debbie Moore argued that: “Nestlé Waters provides a healthy beverage choice produced sustainably in a community that supplies 300 high quality jobs.”

Following the meeting, a resolution is being prepared for submission to the province after the Guelph city council meets on Nov. 28.