Bottled-water giant CG Roxane, better known by its flagship brand Crystal Geyser Alpine Spring Water, is exploring a property in Randle as a possible location for a bottling plant. The company says the development could bring quality jobs to Lewis County, but neighbors are raising concerns about noise and environmental issues.
The site in question is at 807 Peters Road in Randle, next to the Cowlitz River. The company has conducted exploratory drilling on the site, seeking to determine the availability and quality of spring water on the land.
While Crystal Geyser provided extensive details of the project to The Chronicle, many locals feel they’ve been left in the dark about the company’s plans, which has led to some backlash.
“I’m getting lots of phone calls about the potential plant,” said Lewis County Commissioner Gary Stamper. “More than a few people who live up there are concerned about it. I’m talking to a lot of people and spending a lot of time up there and trying to explain to them where the county is, which, we’re not anywhere.”
In an email to The Chronicle, CGR Operations Officer Page Beykpour outlined the company’s plans. At present, Crystal Geyser is determining whether or not the site is feasible for a plant, a process done through exploratory drilling. The “overall due diligence” for deciding whether to build a plant could take one to two years, he said.
“We are presently determining whether the property has a high quality and sustainable water supply,” he wrote. “It is also extremely important that we find locations that are protected from potential outside contamination. Since we do not chemically treat or purify our water, our interests in producing safe and high-quality spring water go hand in glove with environmental protection. Moreover, if our springs and water resource are not sustainably used, we will be unable to continue further operations. Our business interests are completely aligned with the environment and safety of the water resource.”
The company has received a preliminary permit from the state for its testing, and it would need another state permit for any water withdrawals. If a plant were to be built, CGR estimates it will be a facility of about 100,000 square feet with a 5- to 10-acre footprint. Beykpour said it would sustain 20 to 30 “permanent and quality jobs.”
Lewis County Economic Development Council Executive Director Matt Matayoshi has been working with the company as a local liaison, and he said the project could be a boon for the area.
“We're excited about the potential job opportunities that it brings,” he said. “At this point there are no (county) permits, which is typical. If you haven't chosen the site (for a plant), you don't apply for permits. It would be a lengthy process if they chose the site.”
Beykpour stressed that Crystal Geyser intends to do its due diligence before moving forward with any plans to build a plant. Following exploratory drilling in May, the company installed a well which it will analyze with a continuous pumping test.
The data from that test will show whether water withdrawal will affect senior water rights holders or nearby wells, which will determine if the state issues a withdrawal permit. The company’s application to the state requests 400 gallons per minute and 360 acre-feet per year for commercial use.
Many residents are concerned about the project, both for environmental and nuisance reasons.
“There clearly is a group of neighbors that are unhappy with the prospect of a bottling facility coming to their subdivision,” Beykpour said. “There’s a lot of misinformation about who we are as a company, what the scale and scope of this project is, how far along we are in this project.”
Lewis County Civil Deputy Prosecutor Eric Eisenberg said he had heard similar concerns at a Planning Commission meeting.
“It’s my understanding this plant is in the very early stages … but the neighborhood is not pleased,” he said. “They were able to see that the planning commissioners had no idea what they were talking about … There’s a whole process, and it hasn’t even started yet.”
Meanwhile, Beykpour said operations at the plant will be contained within the building, limiting noise concerns. Asked about some locals’ questions about truck traffic, he said the company estimates just more than two trucks per hour will be visiting the plant.
“We do not believe this will be a significant traffic or noise impact,” he wrote.
He added that the company is eager to hear feedback from the community as it continues to shape the project.
Last year, CG Roxane was among three companies named in a grand jury indictment over the improper disposal of wastewater containing arsenic. Beykpour noted the case is still pending and blamed a third party company that “improperly handled the wastewater even after being given clear instructions from CG Roxane.” He added that the Randle site does not have naturally occurring arsenic in the water, making the risk of a similar issue null.