British Columbia

Comox Valley residents 'shocked and disgusted' by proposed water bottling plant

Province says no concerns were found after detailed assessment

March 07, 2018

Concern is mounting in the Vancouver Island community of Merville over a proposed water bottling plant. (Franck Fife/AFP/Getty Images)

Residents of the Vancouver Island community of Merville say a proposed water bottling facility would be bad news for local drinking water, fish and farming.

A Comox Valley Regional district staff report says the operation on a private property on Sackville Road was approved by the province to draw 10,000 litres of water a day from local aquifers.

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"Absolutely shocked and disgusted by the whole idea," said local resident Bruce Gibbons, who says he lives a few hundred metres from the property.

"We think it sets a very dangerous precedent that anybody can set up a bottling plant on their property and tap into the aquifer that services everybody."

Bruce Gibbons (centre) is one Merville resident opposed to the water bottling plant proposal. (Bruce Gibbons)

Gibbons says he is concerned what any drop in the aquifer water levels could mean.

Residents rely on it for drinking water, he said, and it is important for the many area farms as well. He says the aquifer is also connected to local salmon-bearing streams.

Project equal to 5 homes: province

Gibbons says local residents should have been consulted about the project before the province issued the licence. He says he is not aware of any information going out to residents officially.

However, the staff report says the provincial licence requires local government approval and rezoning and district staff are recommending community input be gathered about whether or not the project should be approved locally or not.

In a statement, the Natural Resources Ministry said a "detailed" technical assessment was done on the proposal and no concerns were noted in terms of impacts to other water users or the environment, aquifer capacity and water level trends.

The province says the project would have an impact on the aquifer roughly equal to five extra households.

Next steps in May

The CVRD kicked off the rezoning process Monday with a meeting one official described as having a "very large" turnout.

Merville residents packed a meeting of the Comox Valley Regional District Monday about the proposed facility. (Bruce Gibbons)

Planning manager Alana Mullally told All Points West host David Lennam that outside agencies — Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the Ministry of Transportation among others — and First Nations will be consulted as the next part of the process.

Mullally says it may not be until May that the consultation ends.

Only then will recommendations to proceed with or halt the project be put before the CVRD board, she said.

With files from Bridgette Watson, Rhianna Schmunk, Liz McArthur and CBC Radio One's All Points West

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Liam Britten
Digital journalist

Liam Britten is a journalist for CBC Vancouver. You can contact him at liam.britten@cbc.ca or follow him on Twitter: @liam_britten.

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