Some Comox Valley residents made the trip to ask the SRD at the Jan. 24 board meeting to help stop a potential water bottling operation in the Merville area. Photo, Mike Chouinard

Strathcona Regional District board passes bottled water resolution for AVICC meeting

Wording asks province to cease bulk water bottling in Island, Coastal Communities

Residents in the Merville area of the Comox Valley stopped a proposed water bottling operation at their regional district level last summer.

Now, they’re heading north to the get the Strathcona Regional District’s help to do more to stop bulk water bottling.

At the Jan. 24 meeting, resident Bruce Gibbons appeared before the SRD board to enlist their help.

“We need to protect our groundwater definitely now and for the future,” he said.

Christopher Scott Mackenzie has a water licence to extract water from his Merville property. The issue at the regional district level is how and where they can bottle it.

“I filed an appeal against the water licence,” Gibbons told the SRD. “Ultimately, that was dismissed.”

Of late, he and other opponents have put together a petition for the provincial government with 1,300 signatures, in addition to about 1,200 in an online version. Gibbons said he had also been appearing before municipal governments in the area to gain support for the idea, with Cumberland changing their bylaw and others in the process of doing so.

Last August, the Comox Valley Regional District denied approval for bottling on site. At the time, Mackenzie told the Comox Valley Record he would look to bottling the water in the SRD, though he has not appeared at any SRD general board meetings since the CVRD denied his application.

RELATED STORY: Comox Valley Regional District defeats Merville water bottling operation application

There was some confusion at the Jan. 24 SRD meeting about the steps the Strathcona board had taken. Gibbons had the understanding the SRD had put through a bylaw. After double-checking, staff confirmed the SRD had not adopted any bylaw but passed a motion last fall asking the province to curtail licensing of commercial extraction of groundwater resources for bottling or bulk water sales from groundwater on Vancouver Island.

“It’s my understanding we have written a letter to the premier and the government. That was done in November. We have received no response to that,” chair Michele Babchuk said.

RELATED STORY: Strathcona Regional District board reconsiders some of bottled water stance

At the SRD meeting last fall, the board’s plan to look for more support around the region and draft a motion for the next Association of Vancouver and Coastal Communities Association (AVICC) meeting.

“I’m very pleased pleased to say the board acted so quickly,” Gibbons told the SRD. “I was thrilled with that.”

The board brought forward the resolution question at the Jan. 24 meeting following Gibbons’ presentation for the benefit of the visitors from Merville attending the meeting.

Area D Director Brenda Leigh and Charlie Cornfield, one of the Campbell River directors, worked on the wording the SRD wants to bring forward, which could also be raised with the Union of B.C. Municipalities.

“I worked really hard on this,” Leigh said. “I wrote up three different drafts…. and Director Cornfield has helped with it.”

Cornfield said one of his suggestions was to change the wording from asking the province to “curtail” bottling to asking it to cease the activity.

The board passed the motion to for the resolution, which can be submitted to the AVICC. The unanimous vote brought applause from the people who had come to the meeting for this issue.

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