After years of turmoil, town seizes USA Springs property

Nottingham takes site of proposed controversial water bottling plant

The town of Nottingham has taken the property that was supposed to house the USA Springs water bottling plant for about $1 million in back taxes.

The bottling project has been dormant for nearly nine years after the owners of the controversial groundwater project declared bankruptcy.

Opponents of the project declared a final victory, one group even writing USA Springs’ obituary, but state law gives the previous owners the right to buy back the property for the taxes after the sale, said Nottingham Town Administrator Chris Sterndale. The town had scheduled a meeting Monday night to discuss its options. (A small sliver of the property is also in Barrington)

The tax deed for the 489-acre property, which closed on April 6, came after yet another attempt to finance a water withdrawal project fell through due to the inability of the backers to come up with financing.

USA Springs, which spent millions of dollars securing a permit to withdraw 300,000 gallons of groundwater a day with the intention of bottling it up and selling it overseas, lost its financial backers during the recession. It filed for bankruptcy reorganization in 2008, but fell victim to an international money-lending scam before the bankruptcy trustee stepped in and forced the company into a liquidation sale.

However, in the words of Nottingham’s January filing with the court, the response to the sale was “underwhelming,” and the property, with its partially finished bottling plant, languished on the market for more than six years.  

Last year, Boston investor Kevin Delaney signed an agreement to purchase the property for $1.2 million, but that deal also did not come to fruition.

“This case has dragged on far too long, with no end in sight. It’s past time to call it a day,” said Nottingham’s attorney in a filing.

Both Delaney and former USA Springs owner Francesco Rotondo filed objections. Rotondo repeated his charges about both local and state corruption and collusion of town officials and opponents.

Although Rotondo could theoretically buy back the property, the trustee who has been trying to sell the site halved its price to $1 million in 2015 without success. Furthermore, USA Springs owes about $8 million to Roswell Mortgage which had owned the mortgage, and also had the rights to bid on the property.

So it is unlikely that a bid will come forward now.

Groups opposing the project were ecstatic.

“For 16 years, we stood together as communities and neighbors united by our goal to save our ground water from the water bottlers. AND WE DID,” read the email from the Save Our Groundwater organization.

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