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Letter: Okinshaw Water Bottling Company responds to BCS press release

To The Editor:

In a February 16, 2016 story on The Nelson Daily, the Blewett Conservation Society was critical of the Okinshaw Water Bottling Company.

The Okinshaw Water Bottling Company would like to respond to those concerns raised by the Blewett Conservation Society in the story and news release.

In the opening comment that “Blewett residents were shocked this summer to discover that an unmarked building on a quiet neighbourhood road was in fact the site of a water bottling plant.” 

The water plant on Shasheen Road has been there since May 2002. In fact, it has never changed it’s appearance since that time except for an address number painted on the rock on the driveway entrance. The well itself was discovered in 1995.

Local residents have been aware of this well for years. The aquifer was accidently located in 1995 during mineral exploration. A drill core 580’ deep penetrated the aquifer generating a substantial flow of artesian water. Analysis of the water indicated that it was of exceptional quality – highly alkaline water with a balanced mineral content.

The artesian water source has a natural flow of 190 litres/minute.  Okinshaw Water Company Ltd. acquired the bottling company after much due diligence and after an independent professional research study by an expert doctor and water scientist in the province of British Columbia was completed on the aquifer in mid 2013.

We would never have purchased the plant if the water source had not been found to be sustainable.  The region of the water catchment borders on the South Rocky Mountain trench to the East and the Okanagan Valley to the west. The watershed is approximately the height of Copper Mountain and flows toward the Kootenay River. The size of the catchment area is about 35km2.

The catchment area is completely wooded and protected from industry, commercial or residential development and any potential surface contamination.

Geology and hydrology of the catchment area and well are such that the region of the well is described in ‘Groundwater Regions of British Columbia’, published by the Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks.

The geology formations are described as unconsolidated deposits consisting of glacial, glacio-fluvial, lacustrine and alluvial materials. The formation is characterized by a layer of granite, that effectively forms the surface of the artesian basin, trapping the water. Below the granite layer is a layer of glacial sediment that contains the Riva water. The artesian formation is approximately 200m thick.

Rainfall and snowfall in the catchment area is approximately 600mm per annum. Using standard factors for calculating groundwater renewal, it is estimated that the catchment area makes around 147 million m3 of new groundwater water per year.

The needs for a bottling plant producing 250 bottles per minute operating 24hrs per day/300 days per year are 100,000m3 of water. Thus the Riva water bottling plant is estimated to use less than 1% of the available water in the aquifer.

We noticed that the news release seemed to think it was important to mention that the plant is “Albertan owned”. 

Actually Okinshaw Water is a BC intra-provincially registered company. The main shareholder was born and raised on a farm in Saskatchewan later moving to Alberta and has been a resident of BC for the last three years. We wish to also respond to “Albertan owned Okinshaw Water Company Ltd. on Shasheen Rd has been extracting groundwater and selling it to international markets for private profit.”

We have not been selling to international markets. We have only been selling in Canada. Moreover, why else would you sell water other than for profit?

Generally speaking you set up a business to make a living, to sustain yourself and your family.

Is that not what a business is for if not for the livelihood of the people who own it?

Our response to “Okinshaw claims that this Aquifer has an “endless supply of water” and has inaccurately advertised their product as being sourced from a “37km2 "aquifer catchment area . . . completely wooded and protected from industry, commercial or residential development as well as any potential surface contamination"  is that, this is not an inaccurate statement as suggested.

The professional independent study for our resource describes the resource as infinite simply because of the fact that it renews and replenishes itself every year and also because the amount of water in the underground lake is extremely vast. This is actually a renewable resource.

Okinshaw Water’s response to “The MOE states that “aquifer [511] is fractured bedrock, approximately 11 km2 in size, with low productivity, and generally the sole water source for domestic use in the area.”

Maps of domestic wells suggest the aquifer extends from 49 Creek across the hillside to Eagle Creek near Bedford Road” is that this must be a different aquifer than the one on the Shasheen Road property as it does not describe the attributes of our aquifer.

Okinshaw’s response to “Okinshaw has estimated weekly sales totalling 19,000 bottles per week with a capacity to produce 250 bottles per minute.” 

Is that we do not have sales totalling 19,000 bottles per week nor are we producing 250 bottles per minute.

Okinshaw Water is selling one brand, Riva Natural Alkaline Mineral Water, and not two at this time.

Canadian Ice is not being sold anywhere.  

Okinshaw Water’s response to ”With new plans to ramp up exports of Blewett water to Asian Pacific markets” is that this is not true.

Okinshaw is not ramping up to export to Asian markets. Okinshaw issued a news release regarding international markets about two years ago, but have since changed direction and are concentrating on the Canadian Market.

Okinshaw Water’s response to “(it’s already for sale on Amazon” is that we have sold less than two pallets in 1.5 years. Our response to “and distributed internationally through Clearly Canadian)” is that our water is not distributed through Clearly Canadian and never has been.

Our response to “Okinshaw has declared that it wants to be "leading premium bottled water company in the world" is do any of the Blewett residents want their businesses to succeed and / or do they have goals? 

Actually Okinshaw is not exporting water to any Asian markets or any other international markets. We are a very small company in early stage development trying to gain a footprint in Western Canada which has proven to be a more difficult task than originally anticipated. 

Okinshaw has recently secured a Canadian broker who has secured several listings across Canada for our Riva Natural Alkaline Mineral Water brand.

Okinshaw has barely put a dent in any water extractions from the aquifer since we have been on the property over the last three years. It is unfortunate that these accusations are a based on a lack of information from some residents of the Blewett community. Okinshaw has been said to be affiliated with Nestle Water which is not true.

Again Okinshaw is a very small private company with a genuine desire to make a difference promoting a natural healthy alkaline mineral water product to consumers who want to improve their health or enhance their active lifestyle.

Importantly Riva water is alkaline. The acid to alkaline scale runs from 1 to 14, with 1 to 7 being acid and 7 to 14 being alkaline. Riva water is typically between pH7.93 and pH8.04. The human body maintains a pH level of 7.35.

Thus Riva water can be regarded as perfectly balanced for maintaining the natural alkalinity of the body. The importance of an alkaline diet is now being recognized by the medical community as an important factor in the prevention of many chronic diseases and disorders.

The owners of Okinshaw Water Company have experienced significant health improvements from drinking this water and have had numerous testimonies from those who have had minor health issues to those who have serious life-threatening health issues and all say the water has improved their health immensely.

Premium natural alkaline, mineralized water is becoming more well known for its healthy properties.

Okinshaw Water’s response to “This news comes at a time when British Columbia's water resources are at a historic low” is do residents of Blewett actually understand how much water is in BC or who the largest users of groundwater are?

Irrigating crops, gardens or greenhouses can use substantially more water in one day than Okinshaw Water could possibly bottle.  It is common knowledge that irrigation is the largest user and abuser of groundwater.

Response to “During last summer's drought, for the first time in its history, the City of Nelson was forced to implement Level Four Water Restrictions to preserve water for drinking and fire protection in 2015” is that our water is not extracted from the City of Nelson and is nowhere near their water source.

Okinshaw’s response to “This past summer two established domestic wells that source water from the Blewett aquifer in question ran dry” is how deep are these wells?

Are they sure this is not spring sourced water?

The very word artesian means coming out under it’s own pressure and that is the characteristic of our aquifer. There is no proof that these wells are associated with the aquifer on Shasheen Road and since there are numerous water supply sources in the region, how can this conclusion claim to be accurate?

The pressure of our artesian source has remained constant at between 15 and 32psi for 21 years – the lifetime of the well. At this pressure, the well produces around 190 litres of water per minute at the well head. At this flow rate, the full production capacity of the plant accounts for less than 25% of the water flow. It appears that we have done our due diligence and have already conducted a substantial amount of research on this aquifer, whereas the Blewett Conservation Society has not.

Okinshaw feels it is not at fault that two residential wells ran dry. Okinshaw didn’t even run the plant at full production during the drought last summer except for a few big 18.9L bottles for local area stores, because Okinshaw had sufficient inventory of the 500ml bottles from the winter before.

Okinshaw Water’s response to “Blewett residents are very concerned.  The release states that “increased extraction, coupled with climate change, could result in insufficient water for domestic use in Blewett and for the area’s ecosystem” is that there is a substantial amount of water in Blewett and surrounding area. 

It is pushing out of the mountains all over the rocks everywhere and in streams and underground springs.  Furthermore, has anyone noticed the rather large amount of snow the area has had this past winter which we may add, isn’t over yet?

Okinshaw Water’s response to “The BCS has launched a petition addressed to BC Legislature, requesting that the government take action to protect domestic water supplies from private enterprises and carry out a Water Sustainability Plan for the community in accordance with the new Water Act. 

Such a Plan would also look at other current and projected industrial uses of Aquifer 511, such as mining, forestry, recreational and a gravel pit. 

A letter from Minister Steve Thomson's office stated that “An aquifer characterization study is not currently planned for Aquifer #511.”  How can residents assume that Aquifer 511 is the same as the aquifer Okinshaw Water extracts from?

Okinshaw would like to provide the residents and visitors of Nelson and area, as well as the province of BC and the nation of Canada with access to healthy alkaline mineral water that they would not otherwise have access to.

Okinshaw Water’s response to “For the province to let Okinshaw extract more water for export purposes or to grant them a license to do so without adequate information, would be unethical,”  is that Okinshaw Water has adequate information and we are an ethical company conducting an ethical business employing local people.

Okinshaw has a genuine benevolent intent toward this community and surrounding area. Okinshaw has also been involved in many community events and community organizations as we strongly believe in strengthening and supporting local neighbors and communities.

Okinshaw Water’s response to “The BCS will continue to seek funds to do an independent, comprehensive groundwater study and plans to hold a public meeting about the issue in early spring.”

Okinshaw tried to explain our position to the residents of Blewett last summer when people started attacking Okinshaw on their Facebook pages, but no one has ever spoken to us face to face or called us on the phone nor have they researched our company for themselves.

No one has ever come to the plant to speak with us. We even offered to have a community meeting with some available dates in our schedule, but were told there was no interest in having it during the summer and perhaps the fall would be better so holidays weren’t an issue.

Perhaps it wasn’t that important then?

Now it has come to our attention that a news release has been issued about our company with numerous erroneous commentsl which we take very seriously.

Okinshaw is and always has been open to discussing the business and  commitment to support employment, other local businesses, and the community in general.

In conclusion, Okinshaw Water Company feels we have been a good neighbor and have given Blewett residents no reason to express such animosity toward the company and would like to agree with the BCS’s opening statement that we live “on a quiet neighbourhood road.”

Tara Wood
Corporate Business Development Manager
Okinshaw Water Company Ltd.