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Protests over proposed Bloomfield water bottling plant persist

BLOOMFIELD–Dozens of Bloomfield residents came out to Monday night’s town council meeting to voice their concerns over a water bottling plant set to...

BLOOMFIELD--Dozens of Bloomfield residents came out to Monday night's town council meeting to voice their concerns over a water bottling plant set to move into Bloomfield.

Niagara Bottling wants to build a $73 million water plant on Woodland Avenue.

"What I want to do is help the council to retreat with dignity because they've made a big mistake," said resident Guthrie Sayen.

The bottling plant's proposal has already passed through the Planning and Zoning and Wetlands commissions, and a tax abatement deal has been agreed upon and signed. Residents, however, said they were unaware of these things until after they occurred.

"We didn't know about this until it appeared in The Courant on December 14," said resident Kevin Gough. "That was the first inkling I had gotten about it."

Bloomfield Mayor Joan Gamble said the money is already in escrow for the purchase of the land, and that Niagara can essentially begin construction whenever it chooses.

Gamble said the plant will bring jobs and add $1.2 million to Bloomfield's tax base.

"It'll bring jobs not only in the distribution and bottling of water, it'll bring jobs for teamsters," said Gamble.

Residents said they are concerned about several things, including pollution produced by the factory and the water bottles it would manufacture. There are also concerns about water security in the event of a severe drought, the tax abatement deal, and how quickly and quietly the deal was done.

"They [Niagara] make a seductive presentation about tax base and creating jobs," said Sayen. "The town hurries it through. And then the citizens get wind of it and they raise a stink."

Mayor Gamble, however, said the town was always open.

"We never made a secret of this," said Gamble. "It was wide open all the way through."

Gamble said that pulling out of the deal now may risk a lawsuit. "According to our town attorney, yes it is too late," said Gamble.

Residents said there is still time.

"We have legal advise that it is not too late, and we're not going away," said Sayen.

Gamble added that, going forward, the Town Council may be a little more compassionate toward people who are concerned about conservation.