Courtenay-Comox MLA Ronna-Rae Leonard insists she has heard constituents’ concerns about a proposed water bottling business in Merville.
“I’ve certainly heard the concerns that are coming in,” she said in an interview with the Record. “It’s a very stressful time for a lot of the residents, as they worry about the state of their wells and the potential impact of this water licence.”
Married Comox Valley couple Christopher Scott MacKenzie and Regula Heynck intend to extract and bottle up to 10,000 litres of groundwater per day from their property’s well in Merville and sell five-gallon jugs of it by home delivery throughout the Valley. The couple believes the alkalinity of their water (pH 8.1) provides health benefits.
The business idea has received backlash throughout Area C, where residents worry how that much extraction of groundwater would affect their local aquifer.
After being issued a conditional water licence by the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD) in November last year, the family applied for a rezoning application through the Comox Valley Regional District.
The application was considered at the CVRD’s electoral area services committee meeting on March 5. Over 150 people attended the meeting, most showing up to protest the business idea.
Since then, groups like the K’ómok’s First Nation (KFN) have come out against the proposed water extraction. On March 8, KFN chief Nicole Rempel criticized what she called a “lack of consultation” from the province before issuing the water licence to MacKenzie and Heynck.
FLNRORD responded to Rempel’s statement that provincial government staff consulted with the Nation over a period of six months as part of its review of the Merville water bottling application.
Leonard stayed neutral when asked if she opposes the proposed water bottling business.
“I don’t think this is about my opinion,” she said. “The fact is, the licence was issued with conditions. Residents are raising very valid concerns and I will continue to bring them forward so people can be reassured that their water is going to be there when they need it.
“I think people are concerned and they want an opportunity to express those concerns,” she continued. “My job as MLA is to take the concerns expressed to me and take them to the ministry.”
Leonard said since learning about the issue, she has met with both FLNRORD minister Doug Donaldson and the KFN to discuss the water licence.
The rezoning application could come back to the CVRD for a public hearing in the near future.