KEITH WHITCOMB JR.
BENNINGTON -- Town officials want to make a deal with a water bottling company to use the town’s backup water supply as a source of bottled water.
Which bottling company, or companies, that turns out to be depends on which ones express interest, said Michael Harrington, economic and community development director for Bennington. He said for now he is putting the word out that the town is entertaining offers, but if none take notice then he will begin contacting companies directly.
Bennington’s main water supply comes from Bolles Brook in Woodford, but the backup supply is from Morgan Spring, the head of which is off Bradford Street near the Bennington Recreation Center.
Selling water from the spring is not a new idea and is being done now.
Town Manager Stuart Hurd said that for the past 10 years the town has had an agreement with Vermont Pure that permits the company to draw 100,000 gallons of water from Morgan Spring per day. Vermont Pure pays the town about three fourths of a cent per gallon, Hurd said, but its trucks do not remove anywhere near the 100,000 gallon limit. The money goes into the water fund.
"We are not taxing either of our water sources, and we have plenty of room to grow," Hurd said.
Harrington said the Morgan Spring source should be quite attractive to bottlers as the water is pure and plentiful. Any agreement the town would enter, he said, would include language regarding draw limits during emergency situations like the one during Tropical Storm Irene. Flooding cut Bennington off from the Bolles Brook supply and for a few days the town was using water from a reserve tank on Chapel Hill Road. Water from Morgan Spring is pumped to Chapel Hill Road and during the flooding had to be filtered. Harrington said the warning to conserve water had more to do with the reserve tank’s refill speed rather than the spring. Morgan Spring, he said, can produce about six million gallons per day. The town only uses about three million gallons a day from Bolles Brook. When the reserve is tapped, it is usually because fire fighting efforts have caused a drop in water pressure.
Expansion of the spring could happen two ways, Harrington said. Either more trucks, from Vermont Pure or other places, could come in or a company might build a bottling plant nearby. These options are not without challenges, as the spring is nestled in a residential zone. Harrington said it is not likely that a large bottling company would build a plant just because of the spring, but a mid-sized company or a start-up might have an interest. The purity of the water makes it attractive to companies that want to bottle it, he said.
A bottling plant would be ideal, Hurd said, as there are some locations Morgan Spring water could be pumped to easily enough, and it would create jobs. Years ago the town mulled bottling the water itself, but the water testing regulations proved too stringent and expensive. Hurd said when Vermont Pure began pumping water from the spring, it paid for a purification system required by the state of New York, where its primary customer was located.
Any final agreement would have to be approved by the Select Board, said Hurd.
Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.