Bottled-water giant Niagara Bottling wants to build a massive purification and packaging facility near TechCity. The proposed plant would consume as much as 1.75 million gallons a day provided by the City of Kingston Water Department from the city’s Cooper Lake watershed.
Rumors about the proposal have circulated for months, but town and city officials wary that premature publicity could kill the deal have steadfastly declined to discuss it. That changed on Tuesday, Sept. 16 when a consulting engineer for the project made a presentation to the Town of Ulster Planning Board. The presentation is the first step in a State Environmental Quality Review Act process that project engineer Peter Romano said he hopes will be complete in time for construction to begin in early 2015.
“We hope we can get the SEQRA process rolling,” Romano told the board. “Technical reports, a number of studies are already underway.”
Romano said the California-based company had conducted an extensive search for a site to build a new bottling facility to serve some 25 million customers in the New York City and Boston metropolitan areas. (Currently the closest Niagara bottling plant is in Allentown, Pa.) Company officials settled on the Town of Ulster for its proximity to the state Thruway and existing industrial infrastructure.
The proposal calls for the construction of a 414,800-square-foot bottling facility on a 57 acre parcel on Boices Lane across from TechCity. The parcel, once part of IBM’s sprawling complex and owned by AG Properties of Kingston, LLC — also known as TechCity Properties — is already zoned for industrial use.
The site would also hold 29 tractor-trailer loading docks, 98 tractor-trailer parking spaces, 160 staff and visitor parking spots and 65-foot-high water silos adjacent to the building. Romano told the board that plans called for the plant to initially house a single production line. Within three to five years, though, the company hopes to expand to four production lines employing 120 people. Production would be split between filtered water purchased from the City of Kingston Water Department and spring water which would be trucked into the plant for processing and bottling. The plant would also produce plastic bottles using a heat mold and closed loop cooling process using recirculated water.
Running at full capacity, the plant would draw up to 1.75 million gallons from Kingston’s water system. The system, built in the early 20th century, is fed by Mink Hollow, a small stream in the Woodstock hamlet of Lake Hill. The stream in turn feeds the man-made Cooper Lake. From there, water is piped underground to a filtration plant on Sawkill Road, and then to a holding reservoir where it enters the city’s water mains. The system currently consumes about 3.5 million gallon each day, including about 700,000 gallons a day purchased by the Town of Ulster. Prior to its shutdown in the 1990s, Kingston provided about a million gallons a day to the IBM facility at a time when the city’s population was a few thousand more what it is today. Romano said initially, at least, the facility could run off existing infrastructure with the addition of two new water mains on Boices Lane. Romano said running the plant at full capacity, however, could require the construction of another 24-inch water main to run parallel to the existing one that brings water into the city from Cooper Lake. If needed, the new water line would be built at Niagara’s expense and follow the existing easements secured to construct the original system.
“We don’t anticipate a supply problem,” said Romano. “The issue will be conveyance.”
Kingston Water Department officials have already signed off on a “will provide” letter for the project. According to Town of Ulster Supervisor Jim Quigley III, the letter is not a formal agreement, but simply a statement that the city is capable of meeting the plant’s needs, providing that certain conditions are met. Romano meanwhile said that it was “way too early” to say what Niagara would pay for use of the city water. The Town of Ulster pays $2.82 per 1,000 gallons for use of the Kingston water system.
Another issue to be addressed in the SEQRA process will be traffic. The proposed plant, Romano said, would run 24 hours a day, 363 days a year. An estimated 260 trucks — or one every 10 minutes — would enter and leave the facility around the clock, each day. Romano said trucks would be routed directly onto Route 209 and the Thruway, avoiding residential neighborhoods. The traffic, he said, would be far less than that generated by the former IBM plant.
Following the presentation, the Planning Board voted unanimously to open a SEQRA action for the plant proposal and designate the town board as the lead agency in the review. Romano said that he hoped to have the process completed in time to begin construction in early 2015. The plant is expected to take about eight months to build.