Customers angry after learning Poland Spring doesn't come from a spring

Lawsuit Claims Poland Spring Water Isn't from a Spring

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A bottle of Poland Spring water rests on a granite slab in East Derry, N.H., Tuesday, March 5, 2013.

A lawsuit filed in federal court in CT earlier this week alleges it isn't, calling the Nestle-owned brand label that reads "100% Natural Spring Water" a "colossal fraud".

"The vast bulk of that groundwater is collected from Maine's most populous counties in southwestern ME, only a short distance from the New Hampshire border", the complaint continues.

Bottled water at the Poland Spring bottling plant in Hollis, Maine November 23, 2005. In a statement, Nestle defended its water, saying it comes from legitimate sources.

"The claims made in the lawsuit are without merit", said a spokesperson for Nestle Waters.

"Not one drop of Poland Spring Water emanates from a water source that complies with the Food and Drug Administration. definition of 'spring water, '" the suit says. "We remain highly confident in our legal position".

"Such a spring would be plainly visible - more like a geyser than a spring - and undoubtedly well known", plaintiffs' attorney Craig Raabe says in the 325-page complaint. According to the suit, Nestle obtains Poland Spring water from some sites that are "phony" or "man-made" and do not meet the FDA's qualifications to be a spring. The labels are also deceptive to the extent defendant purifies the water.

Poland Spring has gotten away with this deception, the suit claims, by co-opting state regulators and interweaving its interests with those of state government.

"It has never been proven to exist, and the evidence that defendant itself filed with ME regulators shows it does not exist", the complaint states.

In 2003, the company was sued, also in CT, because its advertising suggested that the water in Poland Spring came from a source deep in the woods of ME when, in fact, the principal source was located near a parking lot. The plaintiffs claim that Nestle has been using the term "100% Natural Spring Water" illegally since 1993 and, in doing so, has been overcharging customers for a bottled water that isn't really a premium product.

The case is not a first: Nestl Waters, which owns Poland Spring, was sued 14 years ago on similar claims and another Nestl Water brand was sued in a similar case in IL in 2012.

Nestl, headquartered in Stamford, Connecticut, owns a number of regional bottled water brands.

"I know that the water they're drawing from here in Poland, to the best of my knowledge, is truly spring water", he said.

Filing their suit Tuesday in CT, where Nestle is based, the lead plaintiffs from the Nutmeg State as well as New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. Nestle Waters settled a 2003 lawsuit claiming Poland Spring's water wasn't sourced deep in the ME woods, according to a Bloomberg News report at the time. In that case, the company did not admit the allegation but reportedly agreed to pay about $10 million in discounts to consumers and charity contributions.

Nestle is seeking state approval to source water from a public water district well in Lincoln.

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