The Mt Shasta office of CalTrout has been closely following Crystal Geyser’s efforts to reopen the dormant Dannon/Coke water bottling facility. Given protecting wild trout is an important part of our mission; we know the area’s cold water springs are critical to local fish populations. And, while trout fishing is an important economic driver in the area, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we can’t find pragmatic solutions to water issues that can also provide a meaningful economic stimulus to our local community. Protecting cold water sources and providing jobs do not necessarily have to be mutually exclusive.
In a recent San Francisco Chronicle article (Source of Conflict, February 19th), Crystal Geyser’s CEO said the public’s concern about the project were “overblown”. The issue of water bottling plants, however, has been a contentious one in many parts of the country. This is especially true right now during a drought period when people are even more sensitive to potential impacts to water supply. No doubt, water bottling facilities have impacted water resources in other parts of the country.
In December of 2013, CalTrout established a stream gauge on Mt. Shasta Big Springs in the City Park in cooperation with the Parks and Recreation Department to establish baseline of flow and temperature conditions. The current flow of the creek is 19 cubic feet per second and the temperature is 45 degrees F. In a previous study, we found evidence that the majority of Mt. Shasta Big Springs water is sourced from areas above 8,000 feet on the mountain and the water may be underground for 50 years or more before emerging at the spring. More studies are needed to fully understand these complex spring resources.
Here are a couple of important things to note:
1) Crystal Geyser is proposing to use 115,000 gallons per day and potentially as much as 365,000 gallons per day. We know that one cubic foot per second of water equals approximately 646,000 gallons per day. Mt. Shasta Big Springs produces 19 cubic feet per second which amounts to the spring producing approximately 12,274,000 gallons per day. So Crystal Geyser is proposing to use 1% of the spring discharge at 115,000 gallons per day or 3% at the proposed maximum use of 365,000 gallons per day.
2) While the proposed volumes are small and impact on stream flow minimal, Crystal Geyser should take an active role in addressing potential impacts to Mt. Shasta Big Springs. CalTrout suggests the following model: a) develop baseline temperature, flow and water quality conditions, b) monitor these conditions, and c) adjust project operations if impacts are detected. For example, Crystal Geyser could establish a monitoring program on Mt. Shasta Big Springs for temperature, flow and water quality and if impacts are detected adjust the amount of water they use for bottling.
Is this a significant amount of water use and will it impact the springs and the water supply? The best way to answer that question is by collecting data and keeping a pulse on the spring flow and water quality. This would not be difficult to do and Crystal Geyser should be proactive in this effort.
The issue of the legal requirement for an EIR remains unclear. Regardless, Crystal Geyser should be transparent in their plans and be active in efforts to monitor their potential impacts to Mt. Shasta Big Springs. And Crystal Geyser should actively engage the community—this will build trust and promote a solution that will promote resource protection and economic growth.
No way. Stop proliferating the “fish vs. jobs” meme. This is environment vs. corporate profiteering plain and simple.
A corporate bottling plant taking our natural resource and giving us back pollution in the form of tens of thousands of plastic bottles instead? No thanks.
You think 1% of the runoff is ok? That’s laughable. Just wait until they get their grimy fingers on the water, they’ll take as much as they can profit on.
As for the monitoring and adjusting — who is supposed to do that? Crystal Geyser? Yeah right. Meanwhile state funded industrial and environmental agencies that would most likely be responsible for enforcement are already strapped with resources and manpower.
This Cal Trout member stands firmly against reopening this plant.
Thank you for your interest and concern regarding Crystal Geyser’s proposed plans. We hear you and share your concerns. As CalTrout staff members that live in Mount Shasta and have our own families in this community, we care deeply about our rivers, fish, and clean water.
Our track record and effectiveness working on the Nestle issue in McCloud a few years ago suggest that we take the protection of our springs and headwaters seriously. If you read the Op-Ed piece carefully, you will notice that we don’t actually say, as you stated, that “1% of runoff is ok.” The point here is to provide you with the information you need to understand Crystal Geyser’s project.
We do say, however, that a real-time monitoring system is needed to measure the potential impact of extracting 115,000-365,000 gallons per day. Who will do this monitoring? Keep in mind that CalTrout and our partners successfully negotiated with Nestle for them to spend approximately $1 million on scientific monitoring, hydrology and water quality reports, and independent analysis. The outcome? They changed plans and abandoned the project. For the record, Nestle was proposing to extract five times the volume from a much smaller source.
All this goes to say that we share your concerns and understand more than most, the potential negative impact water bottling facilities have on water resources and the environment worldwide. We appreciate the dialogue you started above; stay engaged and keep the comments coming!
CalTrout Mount Shasta
Danone Waters North America (DWNA) obtained an Industrial Waste Discharge Permit from the Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) in 2001. That permit allowed DWNA to dump up to 3,000,000 gallons of untreated industrial waste per month into an underground leach field; that leach field drains directly into the drinking water aquifer beneath its property. The industrial waste discharge permit allowed what was characterized as “bottle rinse water” and “floor water” to be discharged directly into the drinking water aquifer. DWNA’s own analysis of the discharge indicated that acetone and 2-butanone were contained in the discharge, but the RWQCB permitted that discharge regardless. Essentially the permit allowed any residue from rinsing the plastic bottles, and anything that was spilled on the floor, to be dumped into the same aquifer that DWNA drew their water from. The DWNA well used to extract groundwater is considerably upgradient (or “upstream”) from the waste discharge and thus would not be affected by the discharge. DWNA evidently obtained this permit because the City sewer system was inadequate to cope with the volume of wastewater generated by their operations.
After DWNA abandoned operations in 2010, it continued to pay the permit fees and conduct the compliance sampling necessary to keep the permit active. The permit (Waste Discharge Requirements, or WDR’s) is similar to a car registration: you need to pay the fees in order to keep it active. DWNA paid those fees; this would allow a future user to seamlessly resume use of the leach field. As of today, the permit is still active and can be transferred to the new owner (Crystal Geyser) with a simple letter from both users. There is no requirement in the permit that the City, larger community, or County be notified if the waste discharge is resumed. The ongoing monitoring conducted by DWNA has shown contamination of the aquifer with toluene and butyl phthalate, albeit at very low concentrations. The presence of these organic solvents and plasticizers in a drinking water aquifer, at any concentration, indicates that continued use of the leach field for dumping industrial waste would be a reckless disregard of environmental stewardship.
My understanding is that Crystal Geyser has informed the Mt. Shasta City Council that they do not intend to use the leach field in their operations and that decision should be applauded. Crystal Geyser has also stated they want to be a conscientious member of the community and afford necessary environmental protections for their operations. Since all interested parties agree that the leach field should go, it is a simple matter for DWNA to submit a written request to the RWQCB to rescind that permit (DWNA needs to do this since they are the current permit holder). This is a very simple, single page written request that the RWQCB could handle very quickly.
By directing DWNA to rescind the leach field permit, Crystal Geyser will realize many benefits: Honoring their verbal commitment to the City Council, respecting the environmental integrity of the larger Mt. Shasta community, and saving money by eliminating the permit fees. It is truly a win-win. If this issue is handled promptly and professionally, the City Council should have written documentation of the permit rescission within 30 days, and Crystal Geyser will have built a valuable bridge to the community.
Good discussions. The only way we are going to maintain our springs, creeks and rivers is by protecting our aquifers. I look forward to more in depth conversations. Time is of the essence. And thanks to Notta Sell Out for posting the letter. Robert Blankenship wrote that after we researched the issue. He is leading the Mt. Shasta Big Springs Ground Water Elevation Study with me here in Mt. Shasta. Our aquifer is showing an average drop of 13.5 ft. in homeowners wells from when the wells were put in. All info needs to be gathered….NOW! Let’s help each other get this right.