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Local water bottler to add jobs

Federal rules helped Enon company increase business when others struggled.

Government regulation on the bottled water industry allowed one local business to boom during a difficult economic time.

Aqua Falls Bottled Water, based in Enon, is a family owned water bottle business that not only bottles its own water but also the water of 17 other companies across Ohio. The company will be expanding this month to accommodate more employees and a growing business.

“We’re building another office, and then we’re putting in another bottling machine when everything gets done,” said Bob Kennedy, a South Vienna native who started Aqua Falls out of his home 21 years ago.

The company currently employs 40 people and will look to hire seven or eight more once the expansion is complete.

Kennedy said about 80 percent of his business is just bottling water, including for brands sold at Kroger and Lowe’s.

“We meet all the specifications of a licensed bottler,” Kennedy said. “When the (Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency) is over inspecting bottled water, they see we have a lab and all that stuff that other companies we bottled for did not.”

The guidelines for how much DEHP, a chemical used in making plastic pliable, has become more and more stringent over the years.

Most recently, in 2012, the FDA changed how much DEHP could be in a bottle “to ensure that FDA’s standards for the minimum quality of bottled water, as affected by DEHP, will be no less protective of the public health than those set by EPA,” said FDA spokeswoman Shelly Burgess in an e-mail.

Another requirement for bottling requires companies to have a lab for water testing, and there are strict guidelines regarding facilities and equipment where water is bottled and processed.

Kennedy said even though standards changed, his company already met the inspection guidelines. So rather than redo operations, other companies began contracting with Aqua Falls.

Kennedy said that it was because of this that he was able to weather the recession.

At the time, much of the bottled water industry was experiencing a drop in sales because of the recession and the rising cost of materials used in the plastic bottles, according to reports from the International Bottle Water Association.

Bottled water consumption dropped from a peak of 29 gallons per capita in 2007 to 27.6 gallons per capita in 2009, according to the most recent report from the IBWA.

After that, Kennedy expanded his business by seeking more clients.

“We started going into new areas like Columbus and Cincinnati, then going out and getting business in other cities like Louisville, Nashville (and) Lexington,” Kennedy said. “Anywhere within eight hours you can go in a semi truck and be profitable.”

The ability to travel easily was one of the main reasons Kennedy chose to remain headquartered in Clark County.

“It’s the logistics. We’re right next to (Interstates) 675, 70, and 75 is only 20 miles away,” Kennedy said. “That was the major reason. That, and I’m kinda from here, I grew up in South Vienna.”

In the last 10 years, Kennedy has also expanded his business by venturing in water treatment and softening, and also now sells coffee online and in the front lobby of his company at 7606 Dayton-Springfield Road.

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