Neither Here Nor There

Peter Pickersgill
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Iceberg water and the IFWW

Canadian Iceberg Water Corp. will soon be setting up operations in Port Union, Trinity Bay. After a 15-year search, the Toronto-based company believes it has found the ideal site.

The harbour at Port Union is well protected and deep enough to accommodate the ocean-going freighters the company will use to ship their product to world markets.

Iceberg Water has contributed $300,000 to the Heritage Foundation, which is faithfully restoring the Fisherman's Protective Union retail store. Built by Sir William Coaker between 1916 and 1918, the store was central to the union's retail trade. It was destroyed by fire in 1945 and rebuilt the following year, but as the union went into decline so did the building.

Soon the exterior will look once again every bit as it did in 1918. The interior will house a purpose-built factory that will bottle the water, some of which will be towed as ‘bergy bits’ to the wharf by fishermen who will be paid by the litre, according to company president David Sacks.

He expects the factory will employ 50 people at the outset and expand to 150 employees within five years.

I was thrilled to hear about this project. By using an infinitely renewable raw material to create a value-added, high-end product, trading on the clean, pure image of Newfoundland and Labrador a significant number of people will find work in a part of the province that needs it.

Those in boats towing the ‘growlers’ to the wharf will be using traditional gear and methods that for nearly two decades have been edging toward extinction.

A boat operator landing the catch at the wharf can expect a ready return without fear of shifting catch rates, permissible gear, interference by government agencies or encroachment by foreign competitors.

Crews will be doing something worthwhile, earning a living without inflicting any harm on the environment that includes them.

Inside the plant, workers will be filling bottles with a liquid that they know contains not one unhealthy molecule and will do no harm whatsoever, be it physical or spiritual to anyone in the faraway lands where the ship tied up alongside the wharf will carry it. It's almost too good to be true.

It seems almost every time someone dreams up an idea that is without flaw or fault, some imaginative person invents a reason why it shouldn't happen. Often the imaginative person is looking to make a buck. Stop me if you think I'm going too far. 

Can you imagine that once production is underway at the lovingly-restored Coaker premises, when boats are landing ice, bottles are being filled and heavily-laden vessels are embarking on ocean voyages to the four points of the compass, that money grubbing schemers won't identify an opportunity?

Once incoming cash is overflowing the tills and being carried home to grateful households across Trinity North, when post-oil refugees from inside the overpass are lining up outside the plant looking for work, how long will it be before the shadow of a grinch will be cast over this happy scene?  

Let's call that grinch the IFWW – the International Fund for Water Welfare (IFWW).

The IFWW will try to make the case that bottling iceberg water is depleting the arctic ice. Never mind that the arctic ice came to the east coast of Newfoundland of its own free will and that it was saved by Iceberg Water from a long and wasteful voyage to the equatorial waters of the mid-Atlantic, where it's uniquely sculpted forms will inevitably melt into the anonymity of the seven seas.

Yes, the IFWW will reply, but that is the way of nature. The surface water of the seas will evaporate and the water vapour will float skyward to form clouds. Those clouds, the IFWW will insist, the ones that find themselves over northern latitudes, will drop snowflakes, lots and lots of them. Layers of snow will thicken the glaciers and ice sheets, which will break off and float south, and the cycle will continue as God and the public relations department of the IFWW decree.

Never mind that after knocking back a couple of bottles of Iceberg Water, a happy partygoer will feel the need to answer nature's call. Once the toilet is flushed the exodus begins, through sewer pipes and treatment plants into rivers which flow to the sea. There the Iceberg Water molecules will join the waves in mid-ocean awaiting the lift-off of evaporation. Clouds will form, snow will fall and I believe this is where we came in.

It's only a small detour from the agenda laid out by God and the IFWW public relations people, and no harm done. I am sure that the Iceberg Water folk will prove up to the job of replying to any criticisms by demonstrating that their bottled water is not only natural, but a very good thing for all concerned.

When they do, there is no reason they shouldn't have a long and profitable run in the refurbished Coaker Premises in Port Union. Sir William is wishing them the best of luck, I'm sure.

Organizations: IFWW, Port Union, Heritage Foundation Protective Union International Fund for Water Welfare

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Atlantic

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