Discussion flows from water bottle plant proposal

The Source of the Columbia Beverages aiming to be operational in Canal Flats by January 2020

A proposed new water bottling plant in Canal Flats will have a capacity of 6,000 water bottles per hour, not 6,000 water bottles per day as last week’s Pioneer reported. In conversation with proponent Richard Belanger, he said the plant will be able to produce 6,000 bottles (500 mL size) per hour. Mr. Belanger hopes to have the plan operational by January 2020.

The proponents, The Source of the Columbia Beverages, hosted an open house and presented their business plan to Council in August. When asked why he wanted to put a water bottling plant in Canal Flats, Mr. Belanger said the water quality in the area is amazing.

“You can drink from the tap the most crystal-clear water … If you look anywhere else – Invermere, Radium Hot Springs, Cranbrook, you can never find that quality of water,” Mr. Belanger told the Pioneer.

He said they would like everybody’s support and feedback on the business, and are looking at how they can be “great corporate citizens in the Columbia Valley.”

B.C. communities have not always reacted favourably to water bottling plant projects. After a proposal on Vancouver Island (Merville) was granted a license in March 2018 to extract up to 10,000 litres of water per day for bottling and commercial sale, residents there raised concerns. A resolution was drafted on Vancouver Island that the BC government cease licensing and extraction of groundwater for commercial water bottling and/ or bulk water exports from aquifers. The resolution [Resolution B 154 ‘Groundwater Extraction’] has been put forward for discussion and a vote at this year’s Union of British Columbia Municipalities conference, taking place at the end of September in Vancouver.

Just up the road in Golden, a water bottling plant is being proposed by a different company (GoldenKey Investments Group). Dozens of people have commented on the proposal on the Golden Star newspaper’s Facebook page, and a poll that had more than 1,000 votes as of Monday, August 26th showed 86 per cent think Golden is not a good location for a water bottling facility.

Local online discussion has been heated too about The Source of the Columbia Beverages’ proposed facility. On a Canal Flats Facebook page (‘Concerned Citizens of Canal Flats’), there are more than 100 comments debating the proposal, ranging from it being good for the economy to being bad for the planet. Sara Ward, director of sales and marketing, responded to residents’ concerns on the page.

“Like you, we do care about the impact our plant will have on the local environment. We are eagerly waiting the results of the BC governments environmental impact study, and will not be taking any action until we have all the information required to make sure we are not causing harm to the area,” she wrote. “One concern that I see repeated here by several of you is depletion of the aquifer. The source of the Columbia is a unique aquifer, in that the water it contains is not trapped deep below the surface of the earth where levels are difficult to monitor. This aquifer surfaces at the source, and is replenished by rain, snow and mountain run off. Our aquifer is a renewable resource and the water levels and quality can easily be monitored as we can physically see the aquifer where it surfaces. The amount of water we plan to draw is very minimal, and we will be doing so in a responsible and sustainable manner.”

The company is currently working on securing a water license, essentially a water permit from the Province of BC. Water licences and approvals are done by a provincial water manager through the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. According to the Water Licences & Approvals site, “applications undergo a technical review to make sure there is enough water at the source to issue a license without affecting the existing water rights of others, or harming the water supply and aquatic ecosystem. Other government agencies, affected landowners and licensees may be notified of the application and given the chance to respond. First Nations in the area may also be consulted.”

For more information on the water bottling company, visit their Facebook page ‘The Source of the Columbia Beverages’.

For more information on provincial water license approvals, visit https://www2.gov.bc.ca and search ‘water licenses and approvals’.

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