Poland Spring could soon be bottling 175 million gallons of water from aquifers north of Bangor.
The Maine-based bottled water company has been scouting out water-rich plots of land, at least 100 acres in size, around the Lincoln area to construct a new $50 to $60 million bottling plant within the next two to five years — a facility that would produce 40 to 50 full-time jobs, the company’s Senior Natural Resource Manager Thomas Brennan said Wednesday. Locations in Rumford and the greater Fryeburg area also are under consideration.
“It’s pretty early in the process but we’re looking in and around Lincoln,” Brennan said, without being more specific about exactly where. “We identified potential targets, we’re talking to landowners and attempting to get access.”
Poland Spring, part of the food and beverage giant Nestle, is the top selling spring water brand in the country, according to Heather Printup, the company’s community relations manager. Since 2000, the 172-year-old company has opened bottling plants in Hollis and Kingfield, Printup said. The company currently employs over 900 full-time workers and produces about 900 million gallons of water per year, Brennan said.
The company’s expansion efforts have received plenty of pushback over the years. The Washington D.C.-based organization Food and Water Watch recently fought and lost a court battle over an agreement allowing Poland Spring to purchase up to 75 million gallons of water per year from the Fryeburg Water Co. Last May, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled the Maine Public Utilities Commission acted properly in approving the 25-year water purchasing deal.
Brennan and Printup spoke about the company’s most recent expansion plans during a March 1 presentation at Husson University. About two dozen students, faculty members, and leaders from a pair of Maine economic development organizations were in attendance.
Printup said the Lincoln area was targeted as a possible bottling plant location due to its aquifer, permeable soil and its proximity to I-95 and a Pan-Am-owned railway, Brennan said. Locations south of the Lincoln area also are under consideration, he said.
Jeff Day, Lincoln’s Water District superintendent, said he had recently spoken to Brennan about Poland Spring’s desire to expand in the area but they did not discuss any site in particular.
The new bottling facility will likely resemble the one in Kingfield, which is about 200,000 square feet in size and bottles about 175 million gallons of water per year through two lines, Brennan said.
The company is installing a third line at the Kingfield facility, which could eventually bottle up to 200 million gallons of water per year, Printup said. Similar expansion at the planned site is possible down the road, depending on how well the company fares financially, Brennan added.
Brennan and Printup did not immediately know how much tax revenue the new bottling plant would generate for its host community. The 40 to 50 full-time jobs pay about $20 per hour plus benefits, according to Printup.