LINCOLN, Maine — A Poland Spring representative said he will push his company to build a $50 million bottling plant in the Lincoln area — a crucial but far from final step in the company’s expansion planning.
Recent well tests showed that the Lincoln Water District can easily anchor a bottling plant, Senior Natural Resource Manager Thomas Brennan said during a district board meeting on Tuesday. Poland Spring has been testing wells and scouting plant locations in the Lincoln area since March.
“For my part as a hydrogeologist, this is where we’re going to do it,” Brennan said. “That’s going to be my advice to the company.”
Several towns, including Chester, Fryeburg, Greenbush, Howland, Passadumkeag and Rumford, hope to host the plant. It would create 40 jobs initially, each paying $20 per hour, Brennan has said — good news for a town that lost its paper mill two years ago.
Company officials must weigh expansion costs, find a plant site and develop backup water sources before deciding whether to expand, Brennan said.
Poland Spring will likely need two years to start its initial operations, trucking water from Lincoln to its bottling plants in Poland and Hollis. A new plant could take four years to build and will likely resemble Kingfield’s, which employs 100 people and bottles 175 million gallons a year.
Legislators who fear that privately-owned companies could imperil state water supplies have proposed a bill that would declare a two-year ban on private contracts to consume more than 75,000 gallons a week or more than 50,000 gallons a day. The bill also establishes a commission to regulate commercial water sales. It is pending.
Water District Superintendent Jeff Day said that the district could support Poland Spring easily. The former Lincoln Paper and Tissue LLC paper mill consumed about 175 million gallons annually and operated for decades without compromising other services, Day said.
The mill filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in September 2015, eventually laying off 128 workers. A boiler explosion in November 2013 doomed the mill by ending its ability to make pulp. The closure cost the district $152,000 in revenue annually, Day said.
“We never had any problems delivering water to them [the paper mill] from the aquifer,” Day said Thursday. “Public water is our top priority.”
BDN Writer Danielle McLean contributed to this report.