Niagara Bottling, poised to undertake a long and likely contentious environmental review of a proposed bottling facility in the Town of Ulster, is expanding its search for water sources to a natural spring in the Town of Red Hook.
Minutes from an Oct. 8 meeting of Red Hook’s Conservation Advisory Committee show Town Board member Brenda Cagle reporting that the Northern Dutchess town’s planner and another board member had been approached by the bottling company about a plan to draw water from Cokertown Springs, located on Turkey Hill Road. The project, Cagle reported, would generate about 100 truck trips through Red Hook each day. The conversation was recorded under the “new business” portion of the agenda.
At a Nov. 3 meeting of the Red Hook Planning Board, meanwhile, Cokertown Springs owner Bill Anagnos presented plans to combine two lots into a single 5.1-acre parcel and seek a special permit to collect spring water. Anaganos said traffic in and out of the site would be about 30 trucks per day during the summer. The minutes do not mention Niagara, but Cagle said she was aware of the talks between the company, the town and the property owner.
“I don’t think it’s a secret or anything that Niagara was looking to buy a property that contains Cokertown Springs,” said Cagle.
The talks in Red Hook cast light on a little discussed aspect of Niagara’s plan to build a sprawling $54 million bottling plant on a vacant site adjacent to the former IBM campus. Most of the debate and controversy around the proposal centers on the company’s plan to purchase a maximum of 1.75 million gallons per day from the City of Kingston’s municipal supply. That proposal has drawn strong criticism in Woodstock, where opponents fear it would overstress the Cooper Lake watershed, and in Kingston, where some residents fear it will lead to water shortages and curtail future development.
Largely lost in the controversy, however, is that Kingston’s municipal water would make up just half of the plant’s total output. The remainder, an engineer for the project told the Town of Ulster Planning Board in October, would be pumped from natural springs and transported to the plant for processing and bottling. Niagara’s plan calls for the plant to start with two production lines, one for tap water and one for spring water. Within three to five years, that would expand to four production lines, two each for tap and spring water. Company officials have not said where the spring water would come from, only that the sources would be “local.”
Kathleen Flood, secretary to the Red Hook Planning Department, said that water was already being pumped from Cokertown Springs as a “pre-existing nonconforming use” meaning that the pumping operation pre-dated the towns zoning laws. Flood said that the site needed to be brought into compliance with the zoning law before it could be sold. Minutes from the planning board meeting show that town planner Michele Greig told Anagnos that he would need to develop a site plan, undertake a full “Type 1” action under the State Environmental Quality Review Act and carry out hydrogeological studies in order to obtain the special use permit.