A matter of trust

Water company learns honesty is the best policy

How would you feel about an outfit that came to town with a proposal to build a water-bottling plant but refused to say who was behind the project? Skeptical? Cautious? Doubtful?

All of the above, probably, which is part of the reason why Crystal Geyser Water Co. is having trouble getting support for a proposed facility in Orland. When it first came before local officials and the public, at a mid-July meeting, it was represented by a puppet company whose spokesman refused to divulge who was behind it.

As one woman later told the Sacramento Valley Mirror, “They lost all our trust in them … when they refused to tell us who they were.”

Eventually the truth came out, of course: Crystal Geyser, a Calistoga-based company owned by a Japanese conglomerate, seeks to build a 112,000-square-foot plant on 10 acres just outside Orland. It would pump about 160 acre-feet of water annually and process it into bottled sparkling water. In doing so, the company says, it would provide 20-25 jobs.

Those jobs no doubt look very attractive in a county whose unemployment rate in June was 15.6 percent. And 160 acre-feet of water—enough to irrigate a 50-acre farm—isn’t an outrageous amount.

But there’s a toxic underground plume nearby, solvent deposited years ago by a dry-cleaning shop. The pumping could cause it to move in the direction of a number of residences that use well water for domestic purposes. Also, there is concern that some neighboring wells might go dry.

Crystal Geyser is trying to mend fences, doing testing to measure potential impacts and holding meetings to explain the project to residents. The company says it wants to have good relations with its neighbors.

Better late than never, I suppose, but it should have started out with that thought in mind. Remember TANC?

The CN&R editorial staff is going through some changes these days. Melissa Daugherty will soon move into the news-editor slot. If you read her Aug. 6 cover story, “Homicide, Chico,” and other pieces she’s written lately, you know she’s a first-rate reporter and will do an excellent job.

Staff writer Christine LaPado will be taking over editing responsibility for our dining and visitor guides and helping out with the GreenWays section, as well as continuing to write for the paper.

I also want to call attention to some freelancers who have joined us, some of them returning. Shannon Rooney, who wrote for the CN&R several years ago, is pitching story ideas like one of those batting-cage machines, one strike after another. Former CN&R Editor Tom Gascoyne is also back, revisiting in this issue a story he first broke in the Chico Beat. And so is Jaime O’Neill, whose essay in this issue gives new meaning to the phrase “barbed satire.” We also welcome former Paradise Town Councilwoman Robin Huffman, whose first report appears in this issue, and the return of Craig Blamer to the bizarre-movies beat.