Mount Sidney Neighbors Raise Concerns over Potential Water Bottling Firm
AUGUSTA COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - A community in the valley has a lot of questions and growing concerns over what could be a water bottling operation.
Seawright Springs is nestled into the quiet countryside of Mount Sidney, which has been a source of fresh water for the community for years.
But neighbors have noticed some unusual activity the last couple weeks.
“What we've learned from contractors is that this appears to be a commercial or industrial-scale water extraction that will then involve trucking or shipping from this location to another location in Verona for packaging,” Shaun Mooney, who lives near Seawright Springs, said.
“It's clear that they intend to bottle,” Robin Hawks, who also lives nearby, said.
Court records show that, as of April 3, there’s a new owner of Seawright Springs - a Delaware company called Flow Beverages Incorporated, which has an address at the Mill Place Commerce Park in Verona.
“The impact of taking the water, we don't know what that would be at this point,” Hawks said. “We have no idea.”
Not long after the change in ownership, neighbors took concerns to the August County Board of Supervisors.
“We all depend on this water in this area,” Hawks said. “We don't have municipal water. We have a lot of farms and so a lot of people are using this water.”
“If the company that's proposing this project is pumping large-scale amounts of water from the ground out of the spring in a dry year, what could happen to the neighbors in the area?” Mooney added. “And not just in the immediate area, but our water resources are connected over long distances in this region.”
Safety is another concern.
“You're talking about a road that in many cases is a lane to a lane-and-a-half wide for at least a mile or two here,” Mooney said. “And you meet a tractor-trailer on that road - that tractor-trailer cannot stop. And if it's fully loaded, it's not going to stop.”
Under current zoning rules, Flow Beverages can draw out nine tanker loads a day, which is about 90,000 gallons.
“If they were to draw more than that, they would have to have a special-use permit to do that, along with a permit from DEQ,” Tim Fitzgerald, the Augusta County administrator, said.
“It has been 23 years since an approval to haul water from this site was issued, substantial changes to the area have occurred since then,” Mooney said.
Fitzgerald says those special-use permits would prompt a letter to neighbors.
But those neighbors want to know why they haven’t already been notified.
“The company has in no way reached out to anyone here,” Mooney said. “Our county officials have not provided any information to us. The state appears to be aware - they've acknowledged it in writing to us, yet the county will not.”
Fitzgerald says state code limits what the county can say, and no notice was required because the property sale was private.
The North River District supervisor said in a statement that he would also like to learn about the questions neighbors raised.
NBC29 tried to reach out to Flow Beverages, whose parent company is in Canada, but we’ve not yet heard back.