Information regarding an application to the provincial government for a licence to draw water from a local aquifer for a potential water bottling facility in Salmon Arm continues to surface.
The application is for a groundwater licence to be used for bottling fresh water from a property at 3030 40th St. SE. The application lists 360 cubic metres or approximately 95,000 US gallons per day from a well, with a total of 131,490 cubic metres – more than 34 million US gallons – per year.
The property is about 10 acres, reported city staff, formerly the location of Traditional Log Homes.
Because the southern boundary of the Columbia Shuswap Regional District’s landfill is adjacent to the property, it is within the area which received notification from the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations (FLNRO) about such applications.
In response, the CSRD provided input to the ministry in a letter dated Jan. 29, 2021. The letter said the CSRD does not support a water licence being issued for a water bottling facility there for two reasons, one being BC Landfill Criteria.
One section of the criteria document listed stated that “the landfill footprint must not be located within 500 metres of an existing or planned sensitive land use.” Another stated that “the landfill footprint shall be a minimum distance of 300 metres from a water supply well or water supply intake and a minimum 500 metres from municipal or other high capacity water supply wells.”
The CSRD letter also refers to the analysis of water flow direction done to date, which shows the proposed location of the source ground water for the bottling operation would be upstream of the landfill.
“Although there are currently no ground water impacts from the landfill to wells located to the south of the landfill, the CSRD is concerned that the considerable draw on the aquifer for the bottling operation could result in leachate parameters of concern affecting the proposed well.”
The principal listed on the BC numbered company applying for the water licence is Terry Sulphur, who is also president and general manager of Mountain Side Earthworks Ltd in Salmon Arm.
He responded to the Observer’s request for information about the application via email by stating that the company is local, with several small businesses, employing between 25 and 30 people, full-time.
He wrote that the company outgrew its rented space in the industrial park so in December 2019 purchased the property. It is currently exploring ways to further expand its business. No plans have been finalized and when any are, he wrote, they will be in full compliance with all regulations.
Sulphur stated that while company partners “believe in transparency and being a responsible and contributing member of the Salmon Arm business community, a business’s strategic planning is, and should be kept confidential.”
At Salmon Arm council’s April 26 meeting, Coun. Tim Lavery brought up concerns about applications going only to a provincial ministry with no referrals to local government. Along with a lack of input, he referred to a lack of transparency in the process and “an outmoded concept I think of this business concept of bottled water into plastic and the whole approach that it’s not eco-friendly or sustainable in my view.”
He provided information regarding the CSRD and a water licence application for groundwater extraction and bottling in Golden in late 2019.
He said that on behalf of the board, Coun. Kevin Flynn, chair at the time, sent a letter to the FLNRO minister indicating the board was not in favour of the application. Lavery said the minister replied, emphasizing that such applications are a ministerial decision.
Lavery said the minister noted the ministry wasn’t contemplating a moratorium on water bottling or changes, but acknowledged that there’s high public interest in the allocation of groundwater for commercial purposes, particularly water bottling. Lavery said water extraction and bottling has been a subject of a number of UBCM resolutions over the last few years.
Lavery moved that council request input from the city’s environmental advisory council on the issue, which was approved unanimously after debate. A notice of motion on the topic may be discussed at council’s May 10 meeting.