December 2, 2013

Bottling water could bring cash flow to Passamaquoddies

Tribe leaders want to build a bottling plant to provide jobs and bolster services.

By David Sharp
The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Michael Dugay, a consultant for the Passamaquoddy tribe, left, and Chief Joseph Socobasin lead a group visiting a spring water well site on tribal land in Indian Township. The tribe is planning to build a bottling plant with the goal of bottling 10 million cases of water by the third year of operation.

2012 file photo/The Associated Press

click image to enlarge

Tomah Stream in Indian Township. The Passamaquoddy Indian Tribe plans to tap into pristine waters of the nearby Tomah aquifer with hopes of building a bottled water plant.

File photo/The Associated Press

The Passamaquoddies have no plans to go head to head with Maine’s Poland Spring, the nation’s third-largest bottled water brand. The tribe would have its own label, Passamaquoddy Blue, but it sees bigger markets through sales of store-labeled water and sales to the U.S. government, said tribal consultant Mike Dugay.

Nationwide, bottled water sales have grown to $11.8 billion despite coming under attack from environmentalists who point out that delivery trucks pollute the air and plastic bottles clog up landfills.

Market indicators point to further growth in the coming year on top of a 6.7 percent gain of bottled water sales last year, and the market has room for new entrants as soda sales give up ground and consumers seek healthier drink options, said Chris Hogan, spokesman for the International Bottled Water Association in Alexandria, Va.

While it all sounds good, there are some skeptical tribe members.

“It goes in one ear and out the out the other because they’ve heard it all before,” said Trever Mitchell, a recent graduate of Washington County Community College in Calais.

But they want to believe.

While there are jobs elsewhere in Maine, Passamaquoddies like Mitchell, 27, would prefer to live and work on the reservation, where there’s a strong bond to the land.

“A lot of friends and relatives my age, they all feel the same way. They love the area. They love being around here. Our family is here. We all love the outdoors. But there’s just absolutely nothing to do. There’s no jobs whatsoever. And that hurts a lot of people,” he said.

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