Bottling plant proposal needs answers

Many questions yet to be answered in bottled water plant proposal for Clinton.

The Village of Clinton is considering a water bottling plant proposal and it’s garnering much public interest, not all of it positive.

Council deferred a zoning amendment decision at its Aug. 12 meeting pending further information.

Clinton Mayor Jim Rivett says Council had asked its lawyers for a legal opinion which it didn’t get in time for the meeting, and there were questions from the public gallery which couldn’t be answered at the time.

Chinese developers Clinton Hongyang Zhengong International Investments Ltd. is proposing to build a mineral water bottling facility adjacent to the as yet unopened wood products plant at the south entrance to the Village on Hwy 97 at Duck Lakes. They will be extracting water from an underground aquifer there.

Rivett says the developer plans to operate 16 hours per day, five days a week and will employ 40-60 people – “Which is huge for us.”

Nearly two dozen people attended an Aug. 25 public hearing with the project’s developer. Rivett says many people had questions concerning the town’s own water supply and the capacity of the aquifer.

“The experts didn’t do their homework,” says Andrew May, “and that’s a damn shame because now there’s fear that it’s going to hurt our water system. They could have put all that to bed if they’d come prepared with answers.”

May is a member of the public who  has been attending Council meetings for the past three years out of his own interest.

He says it’s just his opinion, but he doesn’t think there’s any way it can affect Clinton’s water source, which comes from a different aquifer up in the hills.

This particular aquifer, says May, is a relatively shallow aquifer at the south entrance in an industrial area. There is a map that shows the registered wells that use the aquifer, but there are also unregistered wells in the area – wells that were drilled before registration was necessary.

Part of the problem, says May, is that the developers don’t know the limits of the aquifer and can’t say who will be affected.

Two nearby businesses use the aquifer, but neither business owner was contacted by the developer.

The High Bar Band was also unhappy that it had not been consulted.

A special Committee of the Whole meeting on Sept. 16 was attended by more that 26 interested citizens. Councillors read out the questions collected during the previous week for discussion. Those questions and more were grouped and forwarded to the appropriate agencies for answers.

“People are concerned but they’re not up in arms yet,” says May. “Any business in Clinton that employs more than  two people is wonderful.”

Four years ago, says Rivett, Clinton’s economic development committee made contact with Chinese businesses who came to Clinton and looked around.

“It’s been in the works for a while,” he says.

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