Water Bottler Appeals Permit Denial

Concerns About Contamination a Key Factor

The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services has denied the application from USA Springs to pump 310,000 gallons of water a day from on-site wells and to bottle it at a proposed water bottling plant in Nottingham.

However, two appeals by the company are pending before the Department of Environmental Services and could go to the state Supreme Court, Smith said. Rene Pelletier, a manager with the Department of Environmental Services Land Resources Program, said it is the first time the agency has denied a large ground water permit request since passage of a ground water law in 1998.

Pelletier said the denial hinged on insufficient data from USA Springs regarding the containment of contaminated water detected last year on the edge of the company's property.

''We based our decision on technical analysis and we didn't feel there was enough information in the remediation plan to meet our approval," Pelletier said.

The brouhaha began in May 2001, when USA Springs filed an application with the state for a large ground water withdrawal permit in Nottingham.

The plan, which was opposed by Barrington, Nottingham, and Northwood, spawned the formation of Save Our Groundwater, an activist group based in what member Denise Hart calls 10 ''watershed communities" from Nottingham to Portsmouth.

In the fall of 2002, testing found contaminants on the edge of the USA Springs land, provoking more criticism.

Gregory Smith, a Concord attorney representing USA Springs, said USA Springs has bent over backwards to meet state permit requirements and concerns about contamination detected last year near the site of its proposed bottling plant.

''It's a really good case study of what can happen when you have a private entity with a lot of resources and lawyers that wants to exploit a public resource, our ground water," said Doug Bogen, New Hampshire program director for Clean Water Action, a national group with state headquarters in Portsmouth. ''We need to be ever-vigilant about future attempts to do this."

Boston Globe

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