Everett courts water-bottling company

EVERETT — A private company named after the Greek goddess of fresh water wants to build a beverage plant in north Everett, a venture that could bring as many as 1,000 family-wage jobs to the city.

The catch?

Tethys Enterprises needs up to 5 million gallons of city water a day to make it happen.

The city and company are in the final stages of negotiating a contract that would allow Tethys to tap into the city’s water supply for the next 30 years.

The City Council likely will vote on the matter sometime this month.

“We desperately need this kind of activity in the city,” Councilman Arlan Hatloe told his colleagues at a Wednesday night meeting.

Tethys, a newly created company based in Everett, wants to a build a 1 million-square-foot plant where workers would bottle Everett water or turn it into products such as soda and brewed teas, said Steve Winter, the head of Tethys. The plant also would produce bottles using biodegradable plastics, he said.

Winter is a former president for Intermec, an Everett electronics manufacturer.

Under the proposed agreement, the city would set aside 5 million gallons of untreated water a day for Tethys. The company would pay standard industrial rates for the water. That’s already happening for the mill operated by Kimberly-Clark.

Tethys hasn’t chosen a site but the most likely spots are in north Everett, where a transmission line already delivers daily 35 million gallons of untreated water to the Kimberly-Clark plant on the waterfront.

The bottling plant would be built with private investments, not public money.

Winter said the plant would feature the latest in clean technology and its use of plastics designed to break down and decompose would make the factory a global leader in “environmentally responsible beverage manufacturing and distribution.”

The proposal also allows the city to reduce the amount of water to Tethys if the city’s water rights are reduced, for instance.

The city gets its water from Spada Lake in the Cascade foothills. Everett has the right to use 255 million gallons a day from the Sultan Basin.

Some of that water already goes to at least one other bottling company, A&W Bottling Co., located west of Paine Field, which uses water for soft drinks. The city even briefly bottled its own water in 1990 under the label “Sparkling Spada,” which was billed as the “Sultan of bottled water.”

City leaders hashed over the Tethys contract at a City Council workshop Wednesday night. Council members raised concerns, including whether it was wise to commit so much city water to a private company when the region might experience drought conditions.

“Shipping soda to California is less of a priority if we have regional drought issues,” Councilwoman Brenda Stonecipher said.

Everett’s water rights are an important investment for the community, and the council wants to make sure they aren’t doing anything that undermines those rights, Council President Paul Roberts said.

Everett officials, including Mayor Ray Stephanson, have worked with the company for 14 months, part of a push to diversify and expand business in the city.

Stephanson told the council the proposed contract is the result of “long and laborious” negotiations with Tethys. The city’s projections show there would be enough water to meet the needs of Everett’s growing population and the plant until at least 2100, he said.

Winter, a lifelong resident of Snohomish County, said the proposal contains multiple safeguards for the community. Without this agreement with the city, he won’t be able to secure investors.

“I don’t know of any other company in the city that has the amount of restrictions we have right now,” Winter said.

Debra Smith: 425-339-3197, dsmith@heraldnet.com

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