Facts about the Niagara Bottling Plant in Bloomfield, CT
Over the past several weeks, residents in and around Bloomfield, CT have raised concerns about the bottled water plant we will be building here.
A great deal of information — not all of it accurate or complete — has been circulating. We’ve created this page to introduce ourselves and to provide the facts and background of how our relationship with Bloomfield and your public officials developed. Throughout our discussions and negotiations we have played by the rules, and your officials have, as well.
We are confident that, as you come to learn more about us, most of these concerns will be allayed. We are proud of our company, our products, and our people.
Niagara is a family business. Family owned and family operated, with strong values and a commitment to our people and our communities. We have no obligations to the stock market. Our obligations are to our customers, our employees, and to government and community partners like Bloomfield.
We live in the communities in which our plants are located. We own houses there. We raise our families there. And, when the inevitable emergencies and crises occur, we are out in front, supporting first responders and helping those in need. We’re confident that you will come to count on us as good neighbors.
Here are answers to some of the questions you’ve been asking
Q: How long have discussions been going on between Niagara and Bloomfield?
Niagara began looking for a site in the northeast in 2013. Discussions with the Town of Bloomfield and the Metropolitan District Commission (MDC) began in 2014. Niagara has been straightforward in its discussions and negotiations and has followed all legal requirements. At the same time, Niagara is a business that conducts multiple expansion searches throughout the country. As this process occurs concurrently, it is important from both a competitive and contractual perspective that the company not disclose all elements of its intentions until the successful conclusion of the due diligence process and the decision on a location is announced.
Q: Why should Niagara get tax abatements?
Tax abatements are economic development tools that governments use to attract and keep business. We’ll be bringing a vibrant new business to town, so Bloomfield offered us performance-based tax incentives of up $4.1 million, spread out over 7 years, provided we deliver on jobs and our capital plan. After that time, Niagara will be taxed at the assessed rate.
Q: Why is Niagara paying less for its water?
Niagara will pay the same rate as every other customer for the first 500,000 gallons per day. Beyond that, Niagara will pay a reduced rate, which is not at all uncommon for high-volume industrial users. Other water providers in Connecticut offer similar discounts for large users.
Q: How much water will Niagara actually draw from the MDC’s water supply?
Niagara will not put stress on the MDC’s water supply. When we are at full capacity, we would use 2.3% of the MDC’s daily supply. So while 1.8 million gallons a day may seem like a large number, in the context of the 77.1 million gallons per day that the MDC has available at capacity, this is a reasonable amount. Right now, the actual average daily usage is 47.87 million gallons – a healthy spread between usage and capacity.
Q: With all of the problems municipal water systems are having – Flint Michigan being the most tragic recent example – how can we trust that our representatives are telling us the truth?
Niagara will have absolutely no control over how your water is delivered or treated. We will simply be a customer, just like any other commercial user. The situation in Flint is a tragedy, but it in no way relates to Bloomfield. In fact, Niagara is donating a significant amount of the bottled water that the people of Flint are using. Your Metropolitan District Commission is an outstanding water system.
Q: How does Niagara plan to make a positive impact on the Bloomfield community?
Niagara has a 50-year tradition of giving back, both on its own and in partnership with others. In 2015 alone, Niagara donated millions of dollars and thousands of volunteer hours to provide scholarships, grants, and fund community projects. Niagara is also dedicated to providing bottled water to those in need when it’s needed most and is a supplier of product to our first responders. Thanks to partnerships with organizations like Feed The Children and Feeding America, Niagara is able to assist thousands of its neighbors across the country every year.
Q: Will the 120 jobs that Niagara will create in Bloomfield be decent jobs?
Yes, Niagara takes pride in offering competitive wages, and makes every effort to fill all positions with people living in the communities in which it operates. Here is how Niagara’s entry level salaries compare with base wages in Connecticut: The living wage for Hartford, CT for a single adult is $11.70 per hour (MIT Living Wage Update, 2014). Niagara’s average hourly wage for an entry-level production worker is $13.46 per hour. This represents a 15% increase above the living wage of the county. According to the MIT Calculator (2014), typical annual salaries for Production and Transportation & Material Moving positions in Hartford, CT are $37,010 and $32,340 respectively. Historically, Niagara has scheduled overtime for production workers. Starting salaries for entry level jobs are in the mid-$30,000 range, plus benefits including medical, dental and vision coverage, 401(k), paid holidays and vacations. Our goal is to always promote from within. In 2015, 61% of our jobs were filled this way. There are also more senior supervisory and management positions available at our plants, including plant director and engineer. At each Niagara facility, we conduct leadership development programs and internships for mechanic and manufacturing positions.
Q: Should Bloomfield be encouraging people to drink bottled water when our tap water is so good?
Bottled water has an important place in a modern world. Studies have shown that people don’t drink bottled water as an alternative to tap water. They drink it as an alternative to sugary sodas and juices, which are less healthy choices. As Americans have become more health conscious, bottled water consumption has grown, while soda and bottled juice consumption has declined.
Q: Are bottled water companies draining our water supplies?
Absolutely not. The agriculture industry is the nation’s largest user of groundwater – about 55 billion gallons per day, representing about 68% of the total used. Public drinking water systems are the second largest at 19%, accounting for 16 billion gallons per day. By comparison, the entire bottled water industry uses only 0.01% of all water used in the U.S.
Q: What would happen in the event of a water shortage?
Niagara adheres to all of the laws in the locations in which it operates. In the unlikely event that there are restrictions on water use, you can count on Niagara not only to obey them, but also to be a leader in conservation, sharing what it knows about efficient use of resources with the town and with its corporate neighbors.
Q: Will most of the water Niagara produces be leaving the state?
Water is a very local business. Transporting water over long distances is inefficient and expensive, which is why water companies like Niagara usually sell water close to where they produce it. This plant is meant to support local demand. We have no intention of shipping it across the country. The Bloomfield plant will allow the company to reduce its carbon footprint by not having to truck water into the state.
Q: How is bottled water regulated?
Bottled water is comprehensively regulated by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a packaged food product. The FDA has established bottled water Standards of Quality for more than 90 substances [21 C.F.R. § 165.110 (b)]. Most FDA bottled water quality standards are the same as the EPA’s maximum contaminant levels (MCL) for tap water systems. The few differences are usually the result of the substance not being found in bottled water or the substance is regulated under another provision of law such as FDA’s food additives program.
Additionally, Section 410 of FFDCA requires the FDA to review all EPA National Primary Drinking Water Standards (NPDWS) for public water systems to determine their applicability to bottled water. If the FDA determines that the NPDWS is applicable to bottled water, it must establish standards of quality for bottled water that are as stringent and protective of public health as the EPA’s standards for public drinking water. If the FDA fails to act within 180 days of the effective date of any new EPA NPDWS for public water systems, the FDA must then apply the new NPDWS to bottled water. This section of the FFDCA is commonly known as the “hammer provision.”
Q: Will Niagara control spring water in Connecticut?
Niagara purchases spring water from existing state licensed and approved spring sources. The state mandates limitations on the amount that the springs can withdraw in order to protect the aquifers.
Q: What about the recall of spring water we heard about in Pennsylvania?
The recall last summer was voluntary and reflected the kind of ethical company Niagara is. When Niagara learned that one of the independent springs it buys water from had an indication of E.coli, it issued a voluntary recall at our two Pennsylvania plants from June 10-18, 2015. Niagara found no contamination of any kind in our products or, for that matter, in the spring water that was delivered to our bottling facility. Consumers should have no concerns related to the health and safety of our products. Any other reports to the contrary are false.
Q: Do Niagara bottles contain BPA?
No. There is absolutely no connection between PET plastic, from which our bottles are made, and Bisphenol A.
Q: Will the new plant pollute the air?
Niagara uses state-of-the-art tools and technology to reduce emissions. We meet or exceed air quality standards set forth by the EPA Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards (OAQPS). Our bottling equipment meets the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 8573.1 standards for Food and Beverage Air Quality industry, which are even more stringent than EPA standards. We support Connecticut’s efforts to improve air quality by implementing several emission reduction programs.
Q: What about truck traffic?
Niagara is a certified EPA SmartWay® Transport Partner. We regularly track our emissions and continually invest in energy efficient technology. Niagara’s average length of haul is less than 150 miles, reducing freight emissions. This also enables our drivers to live and work in the delivery area and to return home every night. Niagara has also developed a lightweight trailer that can haul an additional three pallets per truck, enabling us to take one truck off the road for every six loads shipped.
Q: What about the environmental impact of bottled water and plastic packaging?
Niagara is one of the most efficient users of water in the United States. It takes only about 1.3 liters of water to make a one-liter bottle of Niagara water (including the water you drink) – the most efficient of all beverages, including tap water. Niagara uses the lightest-possible plastic for its bottles – 60% lighter than traditional packages. All Niagara bottles and caps are 100% recyclable. Additionally, bottled water has the lowest carbon footprint out of all packaged beverages. Data derived from EPA figures demonstrates that plastic water bottles make up less than one-third of one percent of the U.S. waste stream Niagara is a strong supporter of recycling initiatives. Here is how bottled water packaging compares with other beverage packages: