Christopher Scott McKenzie, far left, in the gallery at Monday’s meeting. Photo by Scott Strasser

Christopher Scott McKenzie, far left, in the gallery at Monday’s meeting. Photo by Scott Strasser

Merville water bottling proposal heading to public hearing

A contentious business proposal in Merville will be going to a public hearing later this summer.

The Comox Valley Regional District’s electoral area services committee (EASC) made the vote Monday regarding a rezoning application for a proposed water bottling business in Merville. The business proposal has garnered backlash throughout the small rural community and media attention on Vancouver Island.

Despite CVRD staff’s recommendation to deny the rezoning application based on the flurry of public backlash that it’s received, EASC chair and Area C director Edwin Grieve made the motion to move to a public hearing instead.

Read More: CVRD to vote on rezoning for Merville water bottling operation

He said he made the motion to address concerns from the applicant that the process has been biased against him from the start.

“The way regional districts are constructed and the way the Local Government Act is laid out, every proponent has the right for his day in court or his day in the sun,” said Grieve.

“In this instance, you could hear clearly that [the applicant] was concerned with the process being flawed. The only way to allay those fears is to move forward with a public hearing. That will afford everyone the chance to weigh in on the matter.”

Last November, Merville residents Christopher Scott McKenzie and his wife Regula Heynck received a conditional water licence from the B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD). The water licence allows the family to extract up to 10,000 litres of groundwater per day from their property’s well on Sackville Road.

Read More: Proposal to bottle water in Merville receives public backlash

The family had said they would bottle the water in large five-gallon jugs and sell it via home delivery throughout the Comox Valley.

To justify their plans, the family touted the high alkalinity (pH 8.1) of their well water, saying the unique pH balance provides health benefits. McKenzie was also vocal that the community had been fed misinformation about the scope of his proposal.

McKenzie again defended his application on Monday and claimed the process regarding his proposal has been skewed against him. He also issued a report to the committee from the provincial government’s chief hydrologist that he felt should assuage the public’s concerns, though the report was not part of the public’s documents.

“You talk about there being a lack of support for the use. We can identify over the last 14 years an increase of 2.3 centimetres per year in this 147 square kilometre aquifer,” said McKenzie. “That 2.3-centimetre increase that first went in there 14 years ago equates to 338 million litres of water that no one even knew went in there.

“That 2.3 centimetres represents 92 years of our water extraction.”

Farmers and other residents in Merville and Area C — and the K’omoks First Nation — disagreed. The CVRD’s staff report for Monday’s meeting included dozens of emails from opposed residents and roughly 30 people were in the gallery at Monday’s EASC meeting.

Critics claim the extraction of 10,000 litres of groundwater per day would dry up their local aquifer — which local farmers said already experiences droughts in the summers — and that it would be unfair for one family to profit from a shared resource.

Opponents also claimed the province did not sufficiently consult stakeholders before approving the water licence.

In April, a group called the Merville Water Guardians formed to further protest the idea and organize a letter-writing campaign against it.

The group’s founder, Bruce Gibbons, was among the gallery members on Monday. He said he was surprised and disappointed with Grieve’s motion, considering staff’s recommendation was to turn down McKenzie’s rezoning application.

“We thought this was pretty much a done deal and that they’d deny this. All the recommendations from staff and committees were for denial,” he said.

“I can understand. As soon as the applicant brought up his concerns that the Area C director was biased, you could tell the director sat back in his chair and realized we need to go to a public hearing to make sure there’s no appearance of bias and he gets his full due process.”

According to Gibbons, the Merville Water Guardians are also issuing a petition to the provincial government to stop issuing licences to extract groundwater for bottling and selling purposes. The petition currently has over 165 signatures.

Just Posted

Charles Hawkswell, Commander, of the Cape Lazo Power and Sail Squadron, presents a $1,000 cheque to the Comox Valley Marine Rescue Society. File photo
Comox removing moorage fees, hydro for Comox Valley Marine Rescue Society

Last year, the unit and society responded to more than 50 rescue missions in the past year

A Saanich man received almost 10 years in Supreme Court in Courtenay for a shooting incident from 2018. Record file photo
Shooting incident north of Courtenay nets almost 10-year sentence

Richard Daniel Vigneault was arrested without incident and faced 16 counts

Dr. Aref Tabarsi, a general pathologist at the North Island Hospital Campbell River Hospital Medical Laboratory, spoke about the issue of service in the region at a meeting in February 2020. Black Press file photo
Comox Strathcona hospital board wants pathology service back

UPDATED: Board supports move for chair, vice-chair to engage with Island Health on issue

Danielle Egilson has been awarded a $40,000 post-secondary scholarship with The Cmolik Foundation. Photo supplied
Student from Courtenay’s Vanier Secondary lands prestigious scholarship

Cmolik Foundation provides opportunities for youth who’ve experienced adversity

Poverty is a sad reality for some people in the Comox Valley. Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash
Project takes a hard look at poverty in the Comox Valley

Objective is to reduce poverty in the Comox Valley by 25 per cent over four years

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The following is a list of restaurants offering take-out and patio dining. ADOBE STOCK IMAGE
List of Comox Valley restaurants offering take-out, patio dining options

Restaurants in the Comox Valley continue to adapt to government-imposed restrictions in… Continue reading

The only access to 5th Street bridge heading east (toward Lewis Park) is via Anderton Avenue. Photo by Terry Farrell.
Single lane alternating traffic controls on Courtenay bridge now in effect

Single lane alternating traffic on the 5th Street Bridge is now in… Continue reading

On Friday, May 14 at Meadow Gardens Golf Club in Pitt Meadows, Michael Caan joined a very elite club of golfers who have shot under 60 (Instagram)
Crowds at English Bay were blasted with a large beam of light from an RCMP Air-1 helicopter on Friday, May 14. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marc Grandmaison
Police enlist RCMP helicopter to disperse thousands crowded on Vancouver beach

On Friday night, police were witness to ‘several thousand people staying well into the evening’

Sinikka Gay Elliott was reported missing on Salt Spring Island on Wednesday, May 12. (Courtesty Salt Spring RCMP)
Body of UBC professor found on Salt Spring Island, no foul play suspected

Sinikka Elliott taught sociology at the university

The first Black judge named to the BC Supreme Court, Selwyn Romilly, was handcuffed at 9:15 a.m. May 14 while walking along the seawall. (YouTube/Screen grab)
Police apologize after wrongly arresting B.C.’s first Black Supreme Court Justice

At 81 years old, the retired judge was handcuffed in public while out for a walk Friday morning

Queen Elizabeth II and Clive Holland, deputy commonwealth president of the Royal Life Saving Society, top left, virtually present Dr. Steve Beerman, top right, with the King Edward VII Cup for his drowning-prevention work. Tanner Gorille and Sarah Downs were honoured with Russell Medals for their life-saving resuscitation. (Buckingham Palace photo)
Queen presents Vancouver Island doctor with award for global drowning prevention

Dr. Steve Beerman receives Royal Life Saving Society’s King Edward VII Cup at virtual ceremony

Most Read