After about a year’s development and a five-month slog through bureaucratic red tape, Castle Rock Water Company opened its doors to the public for a dedication ceremony Friday.
The Dunsmuir event drew a crowd that included county and city officials from north and south Siskiyou.
“This is a great achievement for Dunsmuir and the county,” said Siskiyou County Chief Administrative Officer Tom Odom. “From an economic standpoint, it fills a building and creates jobs. I think a lot of small cities would love to have this facility in their communities.”
District 2 Supervisor Ed Valenzuela said, “We have city and county administrators here. The variety of people shows full support for this operation. I have heard no negative comments.” Speaking of the long path to the grand opening, he said, “It’s exciting to finally see something come to fruition.”
“Everybody should be in support of this adventure,” said Montague City Councilor Kitty Aiello. “Everything like this that happens in the county affects all the other cities.”
Among those attending were Dunsmuir City Manager Brenda Bains; Dunsmuir City Council Members Arlis Steele, Ed Steele, Chris Raine, Nick Mitchell, and Diane Dolf; Dunsmuir Planning Commissioners Dick Kelby and Tim Padula; and Weed Mayor Dave Pearce.
The event also attracted members of a supportive public, including one of the founders of the original company.
“I haven’t been in this building since 1998,” said Scott Lidster of Redding, who along with two others cleared the land for the building. “We literally cut trees.”
He said the day they first turned on the switch for production was the day the train carrying metham sodium derailed into the river in 1991.
“We had to change the name of the company,” said Lidster. “Dunsmuir was on the label.” The name was changed to Castle Rock Water Company.
Lidster said they sold the company to Danone Waters of North America for “a great big check.” Later Danone was acquired by the Coca-Cola Company.
Amid shiny water pipes and water tanks, Mayor Arlis Steele addressed a crowd of nearly 50 gathered for the ceremony in the plant. “It all started when Coca-Cola donated the plant and water rights back to the city,” he said. “We were thrilled at the prospect of Flora Foods leasing our plant and bottling our spring water.”
Flora signed a 10-year contract in March 2011. Owner Thomas Greither later said they adopted the company name Castle Rock Water to emphasize the quality of their product, pure spring water.
However, state and federal regulations, enacted since Lidster’s 1990s enterprise, halted production last May. Castle Rock Water Company could not print the words “spring water” on their labels without certification, according to Mayor Steele.
Page 2 of 2 - He said that of five springs in town, two were certified as spring water, and the pipes feeding the plant supplied water from one of the unapproved three. Dunsmuir Public Works Supervisor Ron LaRue finally broke the bureaucratic logjam by selectively shutting off spigots.
“As Ron closed off the two springs that they approved, the water [levels] would rise several inches in the other springs, therefore proving that they were fed by the same source,” Steele explained.
Later, Siskiyou Economic Development Program Director Jason Darrow said his office also helped with gaining approval. “We worked quite a bit on the applications process,” he said. “Where we really put the effort was in the poking and prodding of state agencies.”
Now that his plant is in production, Castle Rock Water Company President Greither told the crowd his biggest tasks lie ahead. “The most difficult part is making a competitive product,” he said.
As part of the marketing he referred to a photograph on a poster taped to the front of his podium. It was a six-pointed star of ice, created in the laboratory of Dr. Masaru Emoto in Japan. This image, Greither said, is of a water crystal frozen under special conditions and shot through a microscope.
He said that not all water samples crystallize into a star. “From water from big cities you don't get this,” he said, pointing at the photo. “This is our water.”
Castle Rock Water employee Gabriel Lightfriend emphasized how special their water is. “We get water out of big steel pipes from the mountain, from lava tubes,” he said. “We get it before it sees the light of day, after hundreds of years underground. So we’re getting water that is free of any modern-day pollutants”
He continued, “I wrote a book on cancer and its number one cause is toxicity. The body is 70 percent water, and water should be the first medicine. It is the ideal nutrient to flush out all the poisons.”
Greither said Castle Rock Water Company, as with all of Flora’s concerns, places the community high in its priorities. “We’re bottling in glass because recycling companies won’t take plant-based plastic back,” he said. “And we’re all-American, which was difficult because everything – like caps, labels – is made somewhere else.”
Looking down the road, he said they plan to add carbonation, for producing soft drinks.
Herbal medicines, for which Flora is well-known, will also be produced at the plant.
“Hopefully we can hire 100 plus employees,” he said.