PEI

Pure Island Waters alters business plan after public pressure

The company that wants to set up a bottled water plant in Brookvale, P.E.I., has made some changes to its business plan following public pressure.

'We're getting less environmentally-friendly, not more, because of public pressure,' says company president

Pure Island Waters will only drill two wells now, not three, and has scaled back on its export plans, says the president. (CBC)

The company that wants to set up a bottled water plant in Brookvale, P.E.I. has made some changes to its business plan, citing public pressure.

Pure Island Waters president Jim Wood told CBC the company no longer plans to use a geothermal system to heat the plant, because the water required to run this system along with the water being bottled would likely require 60 gallons a minute total.

To operate without a water extraction permit under P.E.I.'s current water use law, Pure Island Waters must keep its water use to no more than 50 gallons a minute. If the company uses more, an environmental assessment of the project would have to be done. 

'Less environmentally friendly'

"So we've let go of the geothermal for now, and will likely go to oil instead, which is disappointing," said Wood. 

"We're getting less environmentally-friendly, not more, because of public pressure."  

We're worried that if you open it up to one bottle water company that will attract others.- Leo Broderick, president of P.E.I. chapter of Council of Canadians

Pure Island Waters originally submitted an application with the province to drill three water wells, one for bottling water, one as a backup and one which would be used to run the geothermal system. Initially the province concluded, given the level of water use described in the application, the project didn't require an environmental assessment.

But Wood said subsequent discussions with provincial officials flagged the potential for higher than 50 gallons a minute, so the company decided to use just two wells.

Council calls for halt to project

The head of the P.E.I. chapter of the Council of Canadians said there has been push-back against the project. The group has drafted a letter it will be submitting to the premier, likely Tuesday, asking him to halt the project, citing the lack of government oversight. 

An online petition which is asking for the same thing currently has more than 700 signatures. 

The head of the P.E.I. chapter of the Council of Canadians, Leo Broderick, says his group is asking the province to halt the project. (Council of Canadians)

"Groundwater belongs to the people of Prince Edward Island, it doesn't belong to any one development," said Leo Broderick, president of the P.E.I. chapter of the council. 

"We're worried that if you open it up to one bottle water company that will attract others." 

But Pure Island Waters' president disagrees. 

"It is not imaginable that P.E.I. will eventually have multiple water bottling plants. It's not that easy to develop a market," said Wood. 

No longer plan to export to Asia

The company has also downsized its export plans. 

Wood said the company no longer plans to export water to China or Japan.

'It's not worth the trouble' [to export to Asia].- Jim Wood, president of Pure Island Waters

Wood said he spoke with a representative from a large company doing business in China and was told it could take up to two years of legal work and negotiations to get an agreement to ship water into that country. 

"It's not worth the trouble," said Wood, especially since the same person told him there are hundreds of water bottling plants operating in China. 

Wood contends shipping bottled water into Japan might be easier, but he said company executives decided to downsize their potential markets to focus on eastern Canada and the New England states.    

Public meeting in October 

Pure Island Waters is still waiting for the province's decision on a change of land use application from non-commercial to commercial. The province told CBC a public meeting will be held before that decision is made. No date has been set, but the province said that meeting will happen in October. 

The Department of Communities, Land and Environment also confirmed a new draft of the Water Act will go to a second round of public consultation likely in November or December. 

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