Augusta County, VA -- Yesterday afternoon, the Augusta County Board of Zoning Appeals voted to deny an appeal challenging a move by the county’s Zoning Administrator to let Flow Water extract from Seawright Springs at an industrial scale and without proper permitting. The decision is a devastating blow to the human right to public, safe, and affordable water in Virginia.
“The Board failed Virginians today by refusing to put a stop to moneyed interests that threaten the human right to water. This small, rural community is being forced to watch big business transform their home into a dirty, loud, and traffic-filled water extraction plant while their children and families face the depletion and pollution of the very water they drink,” said Food & Water Watch Virginia organizer Stacy Lovelace.
A grassroots community group called Friends of Seawright Springs brought this appeal forward in May. This was about a month after Governor Northam’s office publicly announced that Flow, a bottled water company based out of Canada, would be extracting trucks and tankers of water from Seawright Springs each day and bottling it at a new industrial facility in the rural county, which they built without community input.
The Community Development Office’s egregious response was that the appeal was not valid because it had not been submitted within 30 days of county officials granting Flow permission to operate. But they did not notify the public back in December of last year when Flow set up shop, even though officials were involved at the time. It would have been impossible for community members to have submitted an appeal in that window because the agreement was kept under wraps, hidden from the very community it was negatively impacting, until the announcement from the governor’s office four months later.
In a process punctuated all the way through by secret schemes, injustice, and a disregard for the input of those most impacted, the board neglected to enforce a fair permitting process for Flow. The community had hoped instead that the County would defend them from the heavy trucking and potential for damage and pollution the company brings upon the area.