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Battle Brewing Over Bottled Water Plant Plans For Mt. Shasta

MOUNT SHASTA (CBS SF) -- In the midst of California's drought, there's a fight brewing over bottled water, and the need for jobs.

Bottled water company Crystal Geyser bought Coca Cola's old Dannon bottling plant at the base of Mount Shasta, with plans to bottle mineral water, tea, and juice, but neighbors complain that the plant won't be subject to an environmental impact report.

The Winnemem Wintu tribe of Native Americans believes the water is sacred.

"We're a tribe that sings to water," Chief Caleen Sisk said.

Mount Shasta is a 14,000 foot volcano. Most of the snowmelt and runoff goes underground and passes through lava tubes and rock before it ends up in the Sacramento River, and Lake Shasta.

But, the snowpack that supplies that water is only at 8 percent of normal for the season.

The tribe and others around Mount Shasta are concerned about anything that might draw down their water supply, especially during the current drought.

So far, the county says Crystal Geyser doesn't need an EIR because the plant will be operated just as it was by Dannon and Coca Cola.

"Of course the county and the company sort of interpret the way they want to, but I think an objective reading of the law really mandates that this is a very different project, and requires an environmental impact report," Bruce Hillman, an opponent of the plans said.

But, reopening the plant could bring as many as 60 jobs to the area, something city leaders want.

"I think we can balance having Crystal Geyser and protecting the environment and if we can do so it's a good thing," Mount Shasta Mayor Tim Stearns said.

The plant is scheduled to begin operation in the fall of next year.

Opponents say they will sue to get an EIR if they have to.

Crystal Geyser declined to comment.


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