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Powell River City Council restricts water bottling

Councillors approve bylaw amendment that limits water sources
NEW LIMITATIONS: City of Powell River councillors have approved a bylaw amendment that would restrict the kind of water bottling that goes on within city limits.

City of Powell River Council passed a bylaw that prohibits bottling of most water within city limits.

At the March 4 city council meeting, council approved an amendment to the city’s zoning bylaw, which will prohibit the bottling of water or other beverages where the source of the water is other than the municipal water supply supplied directly to the property on which the bottling is taking place. This would allow continued local bottling of water for large jugs commonly used in water coolers, which is bottled by several local businesses.

At the council meeting, councillor Cindy Elliott said she is voting in favour of the bylaw because the bulk of people she’s talked to want council to pass it.

“I do it with a bit of mixed feelings because I’m not entirely certain it’s the right thing to do,” said Elliott. “I’m okay with restricting water bottling to source water, although economically, it doesn’t make a tonne of sense to filter water twice.

“What troubles my heart the most is I’m dead set against sharing our water from Canada anywhere outside of Canada in anything other than individual containers because it threatens the sovereignty of our nation to do so. Canada has a role in sharing water with people who are outside of Canada and I think humanitarian efforts around the world require water in individual packaging. I understand the sentiments and issues around water bottles and the environmental concerns we have. I don’t feel we have a valid answer.

“I believe the best way to handle most of this would be for better environmental regulations around our water licensing, through better regulation of holding companies accountable for the packaging they put out there for all products. I am going to vote in favour of [the bylaw] because the people who voted for me in my community are telling me that is what they want me to do.”

Councillor explains what bylaw does

Councillor George Doubt said he would be voting in favour of the bylaw. He said it is important to comment on what this bylaw actually does and what it doesn’t do. He said he read letters from various people encouraging councillors to vote in favour.

“What this bylaw does is it prevents bottling either of groundwater or water from other sources within properties the city controls zoning of in Powell River,” said Doubt. “That’s all it does. It doesn’t include any water bottling in qathet Regional District – there is no limitation on that. This bylaw will not change water licensing or the commodification and the legislation that allows the sale of water. Those are federal and provincial regulations.

“I’m concerned that many of the letter writers seem to believe all of those things would be changed by the city’s bylaw. I have no problem voting in favour of this but all it does is control certain activities in lands that the city controls the commercial operations on.”

Doubt said the bylaw will protect groundwater, which was a concern expressed by a delegation from Vancouver Island that that people were drawing groundwater and might come over to Powell River to try and bottle it here, thereby damaging availability of water in Comox Valley where it is a limited resource.

Councillor CaroleAnn Leishman said she is supporting the bylaw. She said she thought this type of bylaw also sends the message to higher levels of government.

“It’s definitely one thing to want to support communities that don’t have drinking water but corporations that are making millions of dollars off of natural resources is not related,” said Leishman. “There are ways our government and other governments should be supplying clean drinking water. In Canada, there are indigenous first nations that do not have safe, clean drinking water. There are a lot of problems with accessible water and by supporting this bylaw it sends a message that we are not going to allow bottling of water and commodification in our city.”

Councillor Jim Palm said this recommendation doesn’t really hold water, but he is going to support it because that is what residents want.

Mayor supports jobs, not plastic

Mayor Dave Formosa said he will not be supporting the bylaw. He said the city received 48 pieces of correspondence, which is not a lot out of 13,000 residents.

“I do not support bottling or using groundwater for beverage facilities, whether those beverage facilities are making beer, juice or carbonated water in aluminum cans, and not plastic,” said Formosa. “Nobody likes plastic.

“If there was an opportunity to have 50 to 100 good paying jobs in this community, water is already going right past here and is being taken to Vancouver to Annacis Island and being mixed with the beverages down there. Having it here in Powell River would burn less carbon output by stopping here.”

Formosa said it’s a philosophical issue. He said he supports jobs and tax base. He said he does not support plastic bottles.

“I want everyone to understand I do not support taking groundwater but I support jobs and I support tax base,” said Formosa.

Council voted to support the bylaw with Formosa against.