The proposed Crystal Geyser water bottling plant in Orland, CA (about 2.5 hours from McCloud) – a project which was hatched under odd, highly secretive circumstances – is now running into determined citizen opposition (perhaps the reason for all the secrecy in the first place).
Here’s some distressingly familiar sounding backstory: For a year, Crystal Geyser consultants have met with elected officials, yet as recently as a few months ago, the company itself refused to be identified (Crystal Geyser).
This understandably outraged some residents, as is the Orland City Council’s newest contention – that the project doesn’t require an EIR.
Opposition is growing, as evidenced by this post from the Chico Synthesis online magazine:
When Orland receives the formal application for the project, that’s when the public is allowed to comment. But Crystal Geyser has been buzzing around since July of last year and still no application, Malcolm Pirnie’s report is still pending, and the application is being delayed in anticipation of that report.
But how responsive to citizen concerns will the city be when their relationship with Crystal Geyser is already a year old, and all kinds of assurances were made about a 160 acre-foot annual withdrawal limit and the tax revenue the city would enjoy?
Save Our Water Resources SOWR, an Orland citizens’ group, is working to help with “due diligence”—the process of figuring out whether the project is worth implementing and what the dangers are. One of SOWR’s concerns is that the average Orland citizen doesn’t even know that the project is being discussed; their goal is to increase citizen awareness through petitioning and outreach.
Another significant SOWR concern is that Crystal Geyser, being an international corporation, would be above local, state and federal law—any response that Orland might need to take to regulate the corporation would have to go through international courts, which function in extreme slow motion. While the citizens of Orland should really be the deciding factor in whether the plant moves forward or not, there is widespread concern in the region about allowing corporate extraction of groundwater for out-of-district sale.
If this sounds familiar to anyone, please raise your hand. Oh. All of you.
Behind Closed Doors
That’s correct – this whole Crystal Geyser mess is right out of Nestle’s playbook; they sweep into a rural town unused to dealing with a big corporation, woo the leaders with unwritten promises and assurances nothing will go wrong – all the while operating under the radar of an unaware public.
By the time the water bottling plant becomes public, much of the damage is done, and befuddled elected officials begin advocating for the corporation, not their constituents.
It happened in McCloud, it’s happening right now in Cascade Locks, it happened in Chaffee County, and yes – Nestle’s takeover of the Fryeburg political scene is occurring as we speak – as I sadly predicted it would.
It appears that Crystal Geyser is a fast learner, though I suspect residents may have the final say in this mess – especially once it becomes public that Crystal Geyser sued the town of Calistoga over another well it drilled.
The Synthesis story was sketchy about the details, but it’s clear that legal means are part and parcel of the bottled water playbook – no matter whose name is on the letterhead:
Back to that toxic plume. This is the story that’s circulating: At Crystal Geyser’s plant in Calistoga, they sunk an 800-foot well which ended up contaminated with boron from geothermal water. Crystal Geyser then sued the city for impairing their profit. This information is sketchy at best, and a public records request has been filed for the actual story as the City of Calistoga has it. The City Clerk was contacted and would only say that Crystal Geyser brought a suit against the city, but that it never went to trial, and that for any more information a formal request was required.
It is possible—and an employee at the environmental consulting company retained by Crystal Geyser admitted as much—that prolonged pumping would cause the plume to migrate into the well and possibly into surrounding wells. What then? A lawsuit which Crystal Geyser could easily afford and Orland could not?
Again, more secrecy. The lawsuit information remains woefully incomplete, and I’ll endeavor to update you as soon as I find more information.
You can read the entire post via Crystal Mess | Synthesis Weekly Serving Chico, CA Since 1995.