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Lawsuit alleges Poland Spring water isn't from a spring

By Eric DuVall
A lawsuit alleges Poland Spring water is not actually taken from naturally occurring springs. The company denied the claims and said it will defend the product and its origins in court. Image courtesy Nestle Water NA
A lawsuit alleges Poland Spring water is not actually taken from naturally occurring springs. The company denied the claims and said it will defend the product and its origins in court. Image courtesy Nestle Water NA

Aug. 19 (UPI) -- A lawsuit filed in federal court in Connecticut claims Poland Spring water is not actually from a spring and is "common groundwater."

The suit alleges the bottled water comes from wells in populated areas, some of which are located near landfills and other potential sources of contamination.

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Stamford, Conn.,-based Nestle Waters North America, the parent company of Poland Spring, denied the suit has any merit and said the eight springs where Poland Spring water originates meet the federal guidelines for classification as "spring water."

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has clear guidelines for the various labels companies can place on bottles of water. The most basic level is "sterilized water" or "distilled water" that meets the basic guidelines for human consumption and the point of origin could be a municipal water supply. The most common form of bottled water is labeled "purified."

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In order for a product to qualify as "spring water" -- the Poland Spring label describes it as "100 percent Natural Spring Water" -- the source must be a naturally forming spring. The FDA guidelines state a company may pump the water from the spring's underground source, but the spring must still organically reach ground level in order to qualify.

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The lawsuit, which seeks class-action status, states the company has knowingly misrepresented the source of its water for years.

"To consumers, 'spring water' from a naturally occurring spring signifies purity and high quality and commands a premium price compared to defendant's non-spring drinking water products or filtered tap water," according to the proposed class-action suit filed on behalf of consumers who've bought the water. "To illicitly capture that premium, defendant, since it began selling the Poland Spring brand in 1993, has bottled common groundwater and illegally mislabeled it as '100 percent Natural Spring Water.'"

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The suit also claims the company has been forced "to build or maintain phony, man-made 'springs'" at all eight of the spring water collection sites in Maine it lists on its label.

Nestle Water North America responded to the suit, denying all of the claims and promising to defend the product and its origins in court.

"The claims made in the lawsuit are without merit and an obvious attempt to manipulate the legal system for personal gain," according to a statement published by Bloomberg. "Poland Spring is 100 percent spring water. It meets the U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulations defining spring water, all state regulations governing spring classification for standards of identity, as well as all federal and state regulations governing spring water collection, good manufacturing practices, product quality and labeling. We remain highly confident in our legal position."

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