Everyone drinks water but most of us don't think much about our bottled water, where it comes from, how it’s filtered and cleaned, how it gets into a plastic or glass bottle and how it shows up on our local store shelves. Water may be simple, but bottling it is not a simple process. Bottled water plants are food manufacturing plants and therefore are rarely open to the public. So it falls to someone like me to make the trek to Allentown, Pennsylvania to visit the Nestle Waters plant. Since I write about water and water issues, this was my 3rd visit to a bottled water facility. My first visit was the Evian water plant in France. Then I had the extraordinary opportunity to visit the Kunlun Mountain water plant on the Tibetan Plateau in China at about 9,000 feet, and rarely visited by anyone, anywhere. So Allentown was a little easier to get to. Located in the Lehigh Valley in Eastern Pennsylvania the region is home to two other bottled water facilities, Ice River Springs and Niagara Bottling. Must be something good in the water around here.
Nestle produces two kinds of bottled water here, Deer Park, and Nestle Pure Life, as well as flavored waters, and teas. It’s important to remember that bottled water is a food product, therefore the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has set strict guidelines for how the plant operates and how everything is handled – which is why I had to wear a hair net, hard hat, and needed to remove any jewelry. But there is also the issue of proprietary information inside the plant therefore photos are limited. The plant is fairly unique in that it manufactures its own bottles on site, and the creation of bottle to filling it to packaging it and getting it on a truck takes less than an hour. Plastic bottles start as PET resin pellets, are made into pre-forms as the photo shows, then they are molded into bottles using 450 PSI to blow the pre-form into an actual bottle. They are then transported single file into the filling area, a sealed off space where water is filled so fast it is hard for the human eye to capture the fast moving bottles.
|Resin pellets turn into a preform mold, which turns into a bottle|
Nestle Pure Life is water sourced from the local municipality and the plant cleans the water, adds in minerals for a specific flavor profile then bottles it. On the other hand the Deer Park is natural spring water, pulled up from an underground spring, cleaned, filtered with micro-filtration and bottled. People rightfully wonder how the source water is protected and that is a fundamental question. After all, what good is it to have spring water if that water has been tainted by agricultural pesticides, animal feces, or industrial runoff? Nestle purchases large swaths of land around their water sources ensuring there is no interference with their pristine supply. Additionally they utilize a two-level protection system. First the borehole (where the spring actually is intercepted) is sealed off, and an alarm will sound if the door to the borehole is opened. Second, motion sensors alert the facility should people or animals get too close. But since these are remote areas that rarely occurs. As is typical of Nestle and most bottled water facilities, the physical springs are within 60 miles of the facility, designed to reduce tanker truck times on the road.
For a more detailed, technical version of this article please visit BottledWaterWeb