Tonight Columbia BOCC can stop Niagara from bottling water 2020-01-07

Tonight at 5:30 PM the Columbia BOCC will vote on a water bottling operation by Niagara Bottling that has already been rejected by the Columbia County, Florida, Economic Advisory Board. The Board of County Commissioners makes the actual decision.

Especially if you live in Columbia County, please attend or send them email or call them. We don’t need more plastic bottles to clean up and we don’t need more drawdown of the aquifer and rivers. See the letter below by Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson for much more on what and why.

Besides, the demands Niagara makes sound like private prison company demands to have a certain number of prisoners or else penalties. For example:

Phase 1 water obligations of 650,000 gallons per day by Lake City to provide water is only relieved after Columbia County receives a non-appealable water use permit authorization sufficient to meet company’s water requirements at build out of 2,860,00 gallons per day of potable water and Columbia County has all water infrastructure completed and can independently serve the company.

The purpose of a county government is not to serve a private company from somewhere else.

See also background news stories by Stew Lilker, Columbia County Observer:

The word “potential” is important: just because a company promises jobs doesn’t mean they would actually appear. And if water bottling companies and phosphate mines and agriculture keep draining the aquifer, what jobs will be left?

Letter by Merrilee Malwitz-Jipson to Columbia BOCC

November 6, 2021

Good Evening Gentlemen,

I am a resident of Columbia County. I identify with and volunteer for a citizen based organization named Our Santa Fe River which opposes bottled water businesses in our region in order to protect our freshwater springs, rivers and public water supplies found in wells and municipality service systems.

Tomorrow night, Columbia County (FL) Board of County Commission meeting will be discussing and possibly voting on the Belle Project (Niagara water bottling plant proposal).

Thursday, January 7, 2021 at 5:30 P.M.
School Board Administrative Complex
372 West Duval Street

Regular scheduled meeting Agenda:

Agenda Item:

David Kraus, Interim County Manager

item # 9: Economic Advisory Board Recommendation

Which, by the way, was really a “denial” vote by that advisory board last week.

The BOCC now has an opportunity, because it is on the agenda, to vote on whether or not the county wants to proceed to go into a contract with (aka Belle Project) Niagara Water Bottling company.

This is not Niagara’s first bottled water battle in Florida. This Corporation knows what public pressure looks like, feels like and costs.

Please do an Internet search: “Niagara Groveland Lake County Florida”. It was a very ugly legal battle, in the end that county lost and had to pay Niagara’s legal fees. PLEASE familiarize yourself with Niagara and their legal prowess to get their demands met through local governments.

Read this news story about Groveland, FL in Lake County, FL (2011).,-Martin%20E.&text=GROVELAND%20%E2%80%94%20More%20than%20three%20years,Aquifer%20over%20the%20city’s%20objection

Here are the 10 demands AKA “Belle Project” was making on Columbia County and Lake City last week. I made a Public Information Request to the Columbia County Attorney to see the points of discussion, no mention of Niagara, btw, only the “Belle Project”.

Pursuant to your records request…

  1. Phase 1 water of 650,000 gallons per day shall be provided by the city of Lake City, Florida on or before September 1, 2021.
  2. Phase 1 water obligations of 650,000 gallons per day by Lake City to provide water is only relieved after Columbia County receives a non-appealable water use permit authorization sufficient to meet company’s water requirements at build out of 2,860,00 gallons per day of potable water and Columbia County has all water infrastructure completed and can independently serve the company.
  3. Columbia County shall prosecute the consumptive use permit (“CUP”) for consumptive use of not less than full buildout requirements of 2,860,000 gallons per day to secure water to its final conclusion and any and all appeals, administrative challenges, protests, etc. This obligation to prosecute by Columbia County and . Lake City shall be uninterrupted irrespective of any administrative challenges, lawsuits, appeals and other legal and equitable steps taken by any parties to the CUP including conservation groups, local community stakeholders, and other interested parties.
  4. Lake City shall provide not less than 130,000 gallons per day of sewer by September 1, 2021 and shall immediately move forward with sewer improvements to accommodate future growth in the Mega Industrial Park (the “Park”) including, but not limited to, company’s future sanitary sewer needs of 570,000 gallons per day. The future sewer improvements for company’s full buildout requirements of 570,000 gallons per day shall be completed by December 1, 2021 for the benefit of the Park and Company.
  5. Columbia County and Lake City shall work in good faith with Florida Power & Light and company to bring the necessary power infrastructure for company’s full buildout requirements including a substation, not later than September 1, 2021.
  6. Columbia County and Lake City shall provide necessary natural gas infrastructure for company’s full buildout needs to the Park not later than September 1, 2021.
  7. Columbia County shall complete the necessary roadway infrastructure for company’s ingress and egress to the Park at its own expense and without financial contribution from company.
  8. Columbia County shall provide not less than monthly email CUP updates to company until such time as the CUP has been finalized and no further appeals or remedies are available to the opposing parties to preclude water being allocated to company in the amounts needed for company’s buildout requirements of 2,860,000 gallons per day.
  9. Company shall have input in the selection of counsel should an administrative challenge, appeal or other legal challenge to Columbia County’s CUP filings.
  10. Will serve letters satisfactory to company, in it’s sole discretion, with finalized agreed upon rates shall be tendered by Lake City and or Columbia County and attached as exhibits to the final development agreement and the development agreement shall be approved by January 15, 2021.

Demands such as these pit local government against the public process. I suggest the signing of a non-disclosure agreement did not help this situation. If a company is interested in coming into our community, it makes much more sense to have an open process and in that manner both sides can be a part of the discussion, negotiations and concerns for whatever reasons by citizens which can be part of the process early, saving time and money.

During the Economic Development Authority Board meeting last week, I suggested to this economic advisory group to seek start up companies that that have clean water protection at its core; businesses that improve water quality and water use. Look for start-ups that are working on water protection and engineering. Develop a vision plan modeled after Progress Park in Alachua that is all about bioengineering and medical start-ups. Lake City and Columbia County can seek and find companies that are water centric, including geo/hydro-engineering; businesses driven to cleaning up and protecting our waters on our planet. Businesses with a water ethic that serve as a model for our country and the world; that is something to be proud of and support.

The Mega Industrial Park is a swamp and wetland, it’s no wonder why no business nor adequate infrastructure has been realized in this region of Florida.

Here is an example of businesses that I am talking about from an article written in 2015: “Water startups” are real businesses. They should be sought out and nurtured.

People need jobs, but at what price for nature, clean water, air, healthy communities and sustainability?

Columbia County, a leader in water protection, unanimously passed and signed a RESOLUTION 2019R-53 against the water bottling permit at Ginnie Springs on the Santa Fe River, a permit that still has not been issued as a result of push back by the community and the Suwannee River Water Management District staff’s denial. This process is now in an Administrative Hearing awaiting a Judge’s order. This County has taken a strong stand against water bottling businesses in favor of freshwater springs, rivers and Floridan aquifer.

Bottled water is not sustainable and actually hinders municipalities from doing the painstaking and sometimes expensive work to fix their own infrastructure, as in the case of local city water systems: Fort White, High Springs and Branford that are often under boil water notices. It is easier to buy bottled water than to do the heavy lift of fixing the water lines.

Keep this County straight and honest to keep the water here in its natural system and not shipped out in plastic, single use, disposable bottles.

Thank you,
Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson
Resident of Columbia County, Fort White, FL

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

You can join this fun and work by becoming a WWALS member today!