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Proposed water bottling facility sparks controversy in Bloomfield

Niagara Bottling plant could affect campus' Hog River

By Scott Roberts | 03/03/16 | Posted in News, Campus News, Local News

A proposed Bloomfield water bottle facility could affect the University's Park River, also known as the Hog River.
A proposed Bloomfield water bottle facility could affect the University's Park River, also known as the Hog River.

Residents in Bloomfield are fighting back against town officials after a proposal that could bring a 440,000-square-foot water bottling plant to a vacant area off of Woodland Avenue. The proposed facility will be owned by the Niagara Bottling Company, based out of California.

Bloomfield residents say they were not informed of the town's plans to bring the bottling facility to their town, citing numerous issues with Niagara's plan. However, Bloomfield Mayor Joan Gamble told opponents of the plan at a town hall meeting in January that the town's signed tax abatement agreement with Niagara is legally binding, and if Bloomfield revokes the agreement, the California company could sue.

The bottling facility is expected to cost $73 million, and is slated to open later this year in November. The current planned location is off of Woodland Avenue, across from Mucko Road, and down the street from Connecticut-based Foodshare Headquarters in Bloomfield.

Bloomfield citizens have come together in an effort to help protect their town from the plant, creating a petition with a "5 Point Plan to Protect Water Security." According to the Bloomfield Citizens Facebook page, more than 700 citizens have signed the petition.

The University of Hartford could be one of those communities affected by the proposed plant. Niagara officials say the plant will sit on the Bloomfield town water supply, which connects to the body of water that runs through the University campus known as the Park River, or Hog River.

Freshmen Michael Fiordalisi and Colleen MacInnis have worked to create a petition specifically for Hartford students to speak out against this proposal. The duo began the "Hartford Protects" campaign after learning about the controversy in Bloomfield, and created a petition to "Say No to Niagara," and push the bottling company out of town.

"As a community at the University, we would not have supported this if we knew about this before it was already done," Fiordalisi said.

The two sent out a campus-wide email Wednesday to raise awareness of the campaign, and to get students on board to sign the petition. Fiordalisi said within an hour after the email was sent out, they had received more than 100 signatures to their online petition.

According to the email sent out by Fiordalisi and MacInnis, with the construction of this bottling plant, Niagara will be capable of producing 200 million plastic water bottles every day, and use 1.8 million gallons of unrestricted water from the town's water supply at a discounted price rate.

However, in times of drought or state emergency, Niagara would only have to turn down their spigot a maximum of 25 percent, but continue to pump water until 90 percent of the water supply is depleted. Both students say with such frightening figures, they could not allow to see the beauty of the river destroyed by the bottling plant.

"We don't want what happened in Flint, Michigan, with the Nestle Water Bottling Company, to happen here because that would be devastating to our ecosystem, and our community," MacInnis said.

Fiordalisi and MacInnis say they hope to reach a goal of 1,500 student signatures on their petition. They plan to go before the Connecticut legislature next week and present testimony to state officials on the matter.

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