Nestlé Still Searching the Area for Water Source

Sept. 03, 2008

Bonney Lake and Sumner Courier Herald

Given the cold shoulder by the city of Enumclaw, the giant Nestlé Corporation has not abandoned its quest of locating a bottling plant in the Pacific Northwest – in fact, the company hasn’t turned away from South King County.

The city of Black Diamond has caught the attention of Nestlé and Dave Palais, the natural resource manager for Nestlé Water North America. Palais appeared before the Black Diamond City Council the evening of Aug. 21, making a presentation similar to the one made a few months earlier in Enumclaw.

Nestlé is the largest producer of bottled water in the U. S. and boasts production plants throughout the U.S. and Canada. Water is bottled under a variety of labels. In the West, customers are familiar with the Arrowhead brand, while customers in other parts of the nation might be drinking Ozarka or Ice Mountain.

Nestlé currently trucks its bottled water to the Northwest, a situation the company is hoping to bring to an end. Palais earlier said the goal of Nestlé Water North America is to build a plant in either Wash. or Ore. The company has no facilities in the upper tier of the U.S. Nestlé is looking for a community that has natural spring water as part of its municipal supply. According to the presentation made in Black Diamond, the company would plan to draw about 300 gallons per minute from a natural spring, capturing the water before it becomes part of the municipal supply. The water would be diverted to a bottling plant nearby, Nestlé picking up the tab for all infrastructure costs.

Nestlé is envisioning a plant about 250,000 square feet that would require about 45 employees. In the plant, raw material would be turned into plastic bottles, which would immediately be filled and shipped.

Palais’ presentation noted the operation represents an investment of about $50 million on Nestlé’s behalf. The company hopes to have a plant operating by 2010.

According to Black Diamond City Administrator Gwendolyn Voelpel, “both sides are very early in the exploratory/feasibility stage.”

Palais’ presentation noted that additional work is needed to determine Black Diamond’s water source and supply, to evaluate engineering issues and to learn more about the community.

Palais did not get very far following his pitch to the Enumclaw City Council. City Hall was inundated with public comments, nearly all of them opposed to the idea of Nestlé locating in town. Some were concerned about the impact on the city’s long-term water supply, others shuddered at the thought of perhaps an additional 100 trucks rumbling through town and still others were concerned that Nestlé might make promises that would not be kept.

An ad hoc committee was formed to study the proposal, but most city leaders agreed to scrap the idea before it went very far. Two council members complained that the city should at least take a fair look at the Nestlé plan, but public sentiment was overwhelmingly against the concept.

After being rebuffed by Enumclaw, Palais approached the City of Orting. Discussions with that community are proceeding.