The City of Campbell River has tasked its staff with constructing a bylaw amendment for council’s consideration that could see the bottling of groundwater a prohibited activity within its borders. Black Press File Photo

City of Campbell River to consider banning commercial bottling of groundwater

Many other communities and regional districts have already banned the practice

The City of Campbell River will have a bylaw drafted that could see groundwater bottling prohibited within its borders.

On March 25, the city received a letter from Bruce Gibbons, who has been championing the cause of banning the bottling of water from underground aquifers on Vancouver Island since the province granted an extraction license in late 2017 to Merville resident Christopher Scott Mackenzie, who has been looking for a place to bottle the product after the Comox Valley Regional District denied approving a business license to do so.

The Strathcona Regional District took it one step further after being approached to proactively address the possibility that Mackenzie would look north for a solution, bringing a resolution to the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities (AVICC) “that the Premier of British Columbia and the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources Operations and Rural Development be requested to immediately cease the licensing and extraction of groundwater for commercial water bottling and/or bulk water exports from aquifers.”

Now, the city has tasked its staff with developing a bylaw amendment that would prohibit groundwater from being bottled for commercial purposes here, as well, after a recommendation from the newly-formed Environmental Advisory Committee (EAC) was accepted at the most recent meeting of city council.

But not everyone on council agrees on whether or not an amendment should even be prepared for consideration, let alone whether it should be adopted once it has been pitched. In fact, it wasn’t even a unanimous decision by the EAC to make the recommendation.

“I happened to notice in the (EAC) minutes that one of the members was against this decision,” pointed out Coun. Claire Moglove. “I was curious as to why, so I got in touch with him. The concern that was raised was that there may be a time in the future when a scientific study could determine that bottling groundwater at a particular location would not have any detrimental affect on the aquifer.”

Long range planning and sustainability supervisor Chris Osborne said that if a blanket zoning amendment for the city such as the one being proposed were approved, “anyone who wanted to carry out that activity would be able to apply for a rezoning in the normal fashion and council could evaluate that on its merits.”

Coun. Ron Kerr said he wasn’t interested in considering such a bylaw.

“I don’t think it’s particularly an issue in Campbell River,” Kerr said, “and if it were, I would suspect it would possibly be some sort of business activity involved with some sort of spirits or juices or other kind of drink and it would be limiting to those types of considerations.”

Chair of the EAC, Rob Walker, however, told council that “the intent of the bylaw would be to restrict the bottling of water, not to shut down a craft beer outfit or something that was using the water. Council would be able to bring that into the discussion when looking at the wording of the bylaw.”

Coun. Kermit Dahl said he would be considered a hypocrite as he supported the creation of such a bylaw.

“This is to eliminate bottled water,” Dahl says. “I own a 70-year-old building in Campbellton and I provide bottled water for my customers. It would be hypocritical of me to support the elimination of bottled water when I buy six jugs at a time and keep cases and cases of it on hand.”

But Coun. Cornfield said that the proposed bylaw would only address the bottling of groundwater, “and I think you’ll find that a lot of sources of bottled water are not from groundwater, but from running surface water.”

In the end, it was decided that city staff would be tasked with creating a draft bylaw on the matter with Coun. Kerr and Dahl voting against the motion.

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