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14 Jul, 2019 19:16

Community showdown with bottled water plant gets surprise twist when company reveals its own emails

Community showdown with bottled water plant gets surprise twist when company reveals its own emails

Bottled water firm Crystal Geyser’s heavily-protested plans for a plant in Washington state are all but dashed, after company execs accidentally sent an internal email calling the operation “dead” to the local press.

Crystal Geyser bottles natural spring water and sells it to thirsty Americans, with nearly one in five consumers drinking its beverages every month. However, few are happy to live near the firm’s bottling plants, where they say heavy traffic disturbs their sleep and the company’s water collection activities threaten endangered species and destroy the “rural character” of their areas.

Earlier this year, Crystal Geyser bought land in Lewis County, Washington. The company planned on building a 100,000 square foot plant that would extract 400 gallons of water per minute from nearby springs. At present, Crystal Geyser needs a county permit to begin operations.

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However, in an email accidentally sent to The Chronicle but intended for a higher-up, Chief Operating Officer Page Beykpour said that the plan is likely “dead because the opposition has successfully convinced officials and the media against us.” Locals did come out in force against the plant, with concerned citizens flooding council meetings since the plans were announced last month. Facebook groups have sprung up to oppose the plant, and the local tribal council voted unanimously against it.

Beykpour offered his boss two “long shot” options to push back against the public outcry. Option one involved hiring a PR firm to manufacture fake “grassroots” support for the facility and “change the conversation.” With pro-corporate protesters likely to raise some eyebrows, he outlined a more radical approach: sue locals in the area for past damages to the local water system to bring “them to the table.” 

If both options were to fail, Beykpour suggested “we dump this site” and move on.

Once the paper got a hold of the email, Crystal Geyser went into panic mode. The newspaper claims Beykpour called the Chronicle and “pleaded for the email not to be published,” and admitted that the company is still mulling suing its neighbors. In his email, Beykpour had claimed the Chronicle was “in bed with the opposition.”

A lawyer representing Crystal Geyser called the newspaper and threatened legal action for running the story. 

The Chronicle rubbished the threat, quoting a media law expert who stated that the company’s email screw-up was its own fault and not the newspaper’s. RT has reached out to Crystal Geyser for comment, and is awaiting a response.

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Crystal Geyser is no stranger to local anger. Residents in Mount Shasta, California were furious when the company announced plans to bottle water from a local aquefier in 2014, at a time when the state was threatened by drought and Californians faced mandatory water-use restrictions.

In 2018, the company was accused of illegally disposing of arsenic-tainted wastewater from another of its California plants. According to a 16-count indictment, Crystal Geyser discharged the toxic waste into a pond that staff dubbed the “arsenic pond,” and then worked with two waste disposal firms to illegally transport the arsenic to a plant without a license to treat it.

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