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City of Courtenay looking for water bottling ban report from staff

COURTENAY, B.C- Courtenay’s municipal government is looking at restrictions on bottling water.

On Monday, council discussed a delegation request brought forward by Merville resident Bruce Gibbons, the founder of the Merville Water Guardians. Last year,

Gibbons and the group led vocal opposition to a water bottling proposal in the Merville area, which was eventually denied by the CVRD.

At the time of the denial, proponent Christopher Mackenzie stated he intended to look for other locations to bottle water from his property in Merville.

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Mackenzie has also publicly stated in recent days that a lease hold has been found for his bottling operation in Courtenay, with an application made to the city for a business license. It remains to be seen how Courtenay’s possible regulatory moves will impact that proposal.

Since the CVRD denial, Gibbons has been approaching multiple municipal governments in the Valley asking for bans on water bottling, with Cumberland enacting a ban. His presentation to Courtenay was in December.

Council in Courtenay have now asked their staff for three reports dealing with multiple aspects of the bottling issues. One will be on a bylaw prohibiting water bottling in any city zoning, and another will look at a ban on the sale of bottled water at city events and public facilities.

They also agreed to support a resolution by the Strathcona Regional District to ask the provincial government to restrict commercial extraction of groundwater resources for bulk water sales or bottling.

Asked about the decisions, Mayor Bob Wells indicated that the question of water bottling was something that hadn’t been thought of in Courtenay for the last few years.

“I think, this one, it’s gotten a lot more attention just because of it being water taken from an aquifer (the Merville debate) and there is a lot more contention, more debate,” said Wells.

“I think that’s why we’re taking a little closer look at it, and we do the right thing moving forward.”

There is already one bottling company in Courtenay that uses tap water and reverse osmosis, according to discussion in the council chamber. Any restrictions on bottling could affect the company, or others seeking to do the same thing, such as Mackenzie.

Wells indicated that his biggest concern was smaller bottles when it comes to water sales, as opposed to larger water jugs.

“As someone who drinks water quite frequently, making sure that I have bottled water with me at all times is something that I make a priority,” said Wells.

“I have my stainless steel water bottle. The bigger issue, it’s simple to say we don’t want small bottles, but just last week we had a boil water notice, there are times that that is the only option, or a better option, then the situation at hand. I think our council is pretty focused on trying to reduce water bottle use as much as possible.”

Further action from council will happen after the reports are presented.

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