Orland, California Group Gets Ready to Ward off Water Bottling Plant
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"If you knew there was going to be a machine outside of your house making a whirring noise 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year, forever and forever and forever, and you can't turn it off ..."
Dalene Shippelhoute's voice trailed off.
"It just makes me cry," the longtime Orland resident resumed, before breaking into audible sobs, in a recent telephone interview.
"The noise of the chillers is a high-pitched 'whee-ing' -- as opposed to a low-pitched-moan type of a noise," said Shippelhoute of the controversial three-story, 112,000-square-foot Crystal Geyser Water Bottling Co. sparkling-water bottling plant proposed to be located approximately 300 feet from the rural three-acre ranchette she shares with her 72-year-old husband.
"And there's not just one [chiller] -- there'll be three of those. ... I have put everything I have ever worked for into this property, and if we had to try to sell it [after the plant moves in], what do you think we'd get?"
Shippelhoute -- a retired 27-year state of California employee -- is one of a number of Orland residents belonging to the group Save Our Water Resources (SOWR) who attended a Feb. 1 meeting of the Orland City Council to speak on behalf of an appeal they filed objecting to the Orland Technical Advisory Committee's recent approval of Crystal Geyser's proposal. The Calistoga-based company is seeking approval of the bottling plant on County Road 200 in Orland, on an industrial-zoned parcel that is bordered on three sides by bucolic agricultural-residential land.
Other members of SOWR include Angus Saint-Evens, a retired Glenn County Superior Court judge, his wife, Trish, and former Glenn County Supervisor Joanne Overton. A separate appeal by two Orland-area farmers, Matt Vereschagin and Gregory Appel, will be looked at the same evening.
Prominent concerns are the effects of the water-bottling operation on groundwater supply and the movement of a nearby, PCE-contaminated dry-cleaner plume, as well as the potential for high levels of noise from both plant operations and the daily trips of 25 big-rig trucks to and from the plant.
"But my biggest concern is the water," Shippelhoute emphasized.
Shippelhoute said she thinks that the plant -- anticipated to pump more than 52 million gallons (or 160 acre-feet) of water per year from the aquifer on which the town of Orland and its farmers rely -- "would certainly affect groundwater levels."
SOWR members are hoping that the Orland City Council will decide to order an environmental-impact report before any further steps are taken toward construction of the plant, which Crystal Geyser says will provide employment for 20 to 25 Orland-area residents.
No EIR has been ordered in the nearly two-year period since Crystal Geyser -- owned by Japanese conglomerate Otsuka Pharmaceutical -- first held meetings, beginning in April 2008, with the Orland TAC.
A report issued to the TAC by Crystal Geyser on Nov. 30, 2009 -- after members of the public expressed concern after getting wind of the proposed plant last summer -- asserted, among other things, that the project is exempt from California Environmental Quality Act review, and thus the need for an EIR, as "there is no credible evidence that the proposed facility would have a significant adverse impact on the environment."
"[T]he only effect of an EIR," the report summed up, "would be to delay jobs coming to Orland for the duration of the EIR process."
Not so, says SOWR member Carol Perkins.
"We want an EIR," insisted Perkins, a graduate student at Chico State studying environmental science with a focus on hydrology. Perkins is also employed as water-resource advocate/consultant for the Butte Environmental Council, in part to keep tabs on the Crystal Geyser situation in Orland.