LOS LUNAS — Niagara Bottling has been doing well enough in the last few years that it is now looking to expand its production at its Los Lunas plant.
Originally slated as an action item during the last Los Lunas Village Council meeting, Niagara Bottling requested the village amend its water/wastewater agreement with the company to double its production.
Los Lunas Mayor Charles Griego amended the agenda at the beginning of the meeting, and turned the action item into a discussion item, citing the need for more information. He noted the request could put a load on the village’s water system, and questioned how an increase in production from Niagara would affect it.
The hope, Niagara’s John Utton said, is to bring this item back to the council at its next meeting on Thursday, Feb. 11. He mentioned a couple “loose ends” that need to be worked on between the company and the village.
Niagara Bottling is expecting a 46-60 percent increase in “head count and staffing,” Jason Vangalis, a representative with Niagara Bottling’s economic development government relations team, said during the meeting.
Currently, the plant has about 40-50 employees.
Niagara Bottling would need an increase of water diverted from the village from 285 acre feet per year up to 650 acre feet per year if its expansion plan is to be approved. One acre-foot of water is a little less than 326,000 gallons.
The proposed agreement between the village and Niagara Bottling requires the latter to “transfer suitable water rights into the village’s wells by lease to offset their water consumption,” according to the agenda. Niagara Bottling plans to get those water rights through PNM, as it was previously done under the current water/wastewater agreement that was approved in 2017.
If the council approves the agreement, the hope is increased production at the plant would begin next January.
“My understanding is that if it’s approved, then we would take steps to order the equipment for the second line,” Utton said. “That equipment is manufactured in Germany and it’s about an eight to nine month lead out period … our hope is that by January of 2022 — so a year from now — we would expand the plant.”
Michael Jaramillo, public works director for the village, said if the agreement is approved, Niagara could hook up directly to Well 7, which is near the plant. While it isn’t needed to provide the amount of water the company is requesting, Jaramillo said, “the reason is that when anybody takes water from the village, we would hope to be able to maintain our capacity or our requirement to our communities.”
Niagara Bottling would pay for the infrastructure of the second line and would purchase equipment to do so.
Village officials are concerned about the load of local water that would be diverted to Niagara for possible expansion.
“We’re waiting for information concerning loads on our water system based upon current demands that we have based upon the village’s current population and projected growth, as well as other agreements that we have for the provision of water and peak demands within those agreements and stuff,” said Larry Guggino, the village’s attorney.
The council talked about possible penalties for overages in a revised agreement, although it wasn’t discussed in-depth.
Niagara, a bottling company, leases about 44 percent of the facility, which once housed Merillat on the westside of Interstate 25, according to a 2017 News-Bulletin article.
Representatives from Niagara Bottling said about 90 percent of the water bottled at its plant in Los Lunas stays in New Mexico.