Although Starbucks announced last week that it is moving its Ethos bottled water operation out of drought-stricken California, another bottler has taken a different tack.
Crystal Geyser is planning to open a new bottling plant near Mount Shasta’s glaciers in Siskiyou County, where it will tap into an aquifer that feeds the Sacramento River, a major source of water for the state.
The company took over a 145,000-square-foot bottling plant operated by Coca-Cola until 2010 and intends to move its sparkling water operations from Bakersfield and Calistoga there. The plan, according to company officials the San Francisco Chronicle interviewed, is to use 115,000 gallons of water a day at first.
An anticipated expansion in five to seven years would require another 102,000 gallons a day, although the total could reach 365,000 on some days. That’s close to what Coca-Cola was using. Crystal Geyser plans to make flavored drinks and tea there, too.
When Starbucks announced it was moving Ethos to Pennsylvania, it acknowledged a marketing dilemma. “We are committed to our mission to be a globally responsible company and to support the people of the state of California as they face this unprecedented drought,” John Kelly, senior vice president of global responsibility and pubic policy, said in a statement.
So far, Nestle, Coca Cola, Pepsi, Crystal Geyser and other owners of the state’s 108 bottling operations are not similarly conflicted. They’ve been doing it for more than 100 years with pretty much no oversight.
At Mount Shasta, there is no environmental impact report (EIR). No permit. “They don’t need a water right from us if they are using groundwater,” Water Board spokesman Tim Moran told the Chronicle. “Historically, groundwater hasn’t been regulated in California.”
The plant is expected to open in September and bring 60 needed jobs to the area. The Siskiyou Daily News said 10 people showed up at a county Board of Supervisors meeting last week and pleaded with them to block the plant.
They worried that the plant would exacerbate damage from the state’s mandated 25% water cuts, but also wanted to know what could be done about truck traffic, effluent generation and power needs. They at least wanted some transparency to the talks going on between county officials and the company.
They were told there wasn’t much to see and not much could be done. The plant was located on property zoned for heavy industrial and its activities weren’t covered by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Critics don’t believe that. They want an EIR pursued and waste permits to be effective.
There are at least 26 wells in the neighborhood that tap the aquifer and they are nervous. The owners are conducting studies now to establish how deep their access is now, so they can compare numbers when the plant gets rolling.