If Nestle Waters’ plan to build a bottling facility in Centre County comes to fruition, the Spring Township Water Authority would need to more than double its water output.
The proposed facility in either Spring or Benner townships would receive water from the STWA, with Nestle Waters purchasing 150 million gallons of water per year at about $4.50 per 1,000 gallons of water, according to Nestle Waters Natural Resources Manager Eric Andreus.
That amount of water could support two bottling lines for Deer Park brand bottled water at the $50 million, roughly 250,000-square-foot manufacturing facility, Andreus said.
STWA Chairman Doug Weikel said the authority currently supplies about 350,000 gallons of water to its 1,500 customers every day, which comes out to at least 130 million gallons annually. It collects groundwater by tapping into an aquifer, with less than 0.25 percent resulting from Spring Creek in Milesburg, Weikel said.
"They would be our largest customer, no doubt," he said.
A second well would need to be built in order to collect enough water for the bottling plant.
Nestle Waters would pay for the construction of the well and reimburse the STWA for the pipeline that’ll pump the water from the well to the bottling facility, Weikel said. However, the water authority would maintain ownership of the well.
Weikel said there’s no worry about running out of groundwater. During testing, he said private wells in the area were closely monitored to make sure the resources were adequate.
“We’ve done testing to the wells and that testing is done by a licensed hydrogeologist,” Weikel said. “It’s reviewed and approved by the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, and we’ve gone through all these tests and have gotten all these approvals already, a long time ago.”
He said the addition of Nestle Waters as a customer would not affect anyone’s service “whatsoever.”
Nestle Waters has two existing bottling facilities in Lehigh County and seven spring sites in the eastern part of the state.
Throughout the country, Andreus said Nestle Waters has 27 bottling facilities, which are supplied by water authorities or the 47 Nestle Waters spring sites, in which case the company purchases or leases land and withdraws the water from springs.
The proposed facility in Centre County would receive about 300-350 gallons of water per minute, though the time frame for withdrawal hasn’t been determined, Weikel said. It would depend on when the plant operates.
Nisha Swinton, senior organizer for environmental advocacy group Food and Water Watch, said it’s not uncommon for “predatory companies like Nestle” to quickly ask for a new permit that would allow them to pump more water.
“When you have large-scale water extraction, they always say they will extract a little bit, but then they always increase,” Swinton said. “Nestle’s getting away with so much.”
In Evart, Michigan, Nestle Waters had been pumping about 250 gallons of water per minute from one of its wells, but recently it’s been trying to obtain a permit to pump 400 gallons per minute, Newsweek reported last month. The company pays a $200 annual permit fee to pump more than 130 million gallons of water a year at the spring site, according to the New York Times.
Nestle Waters will host a public information session on Monday for local residents to ask questions or voice their concerns about the proposed bottling plant in Centre County. The meeting will be from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Central Pennsylvania Institute of Science and Technology, 540 N. Harrison Road, Pleasant Gap.