FARMINGDALE — Any day now the people behind Maine Mist will get the go-ahead, and the state’s newest bottled water will be launched.

The idea has been percolating for more than two decades, and now all the pieces are falling into place.

“We bought a drill rig in 1992,” said Ed Bowie, of Bowie Bros. Well Drilling. They drilled a well behind the office on Maine Avenue in Farmingdale, going down more than 600 feet and finding water. The water was good. No color and no staining, Bowie said, and the idea of bottling it started to take shape. But the well drilling business was good, and that’s where the company devoted its time and energy.

But when 2008 rolled in and the housing market in Maine rolled over, taking related businesses like well drilling with it, Bowie and his wife, Deb, started considering other options. One of Bowie Bros. Well Drilling’s underused assets was its storefront on a well-traveled U.S. 201 along the Kennebec River. When they considered what use they could put that space to, they had another idea to open a beverage shop offering beer and wine. Even as they got the Cobbossee Beverage Shop up and running in 2013, they had another underused asset to tap — the well behind the shop that produces water at a rate of 139 gallons per minute. They continued to develop the idea of bottling water and mapped out what it would take to make Maine Mist happen.

The process of bottling and selling well water is more complicated than poking a hole in the ground and collecting the water that bubbles up.

Regulatory requirements and standards at both the state and federal levels through a variety of agencies and departments, some lengthy and complicated, must be met to ensure the water is safe for consumption, that the aquifer the water comes from will not be stressed, and that the exchanged bottles — three and five gallons — are sanitized properly. Treating the water is a multi-step process that includes a sediment pre-filter, two carbon filters, reverse osmosis, an atmospheric storage tank and recirculating the water with ozone and adjusting the pH to add hardness and a bit of flavor.

The cost — paid for by the partners and with bank financing — might be high, but it’s worth the risk. Sales of bottled water in the United States were expected to reach $14 billion in 2014, according to the International Bottled Water Association, and demand was expected to continue to grow.

It’s also a competitive business. Maine Mist will join the nearly two dozen companies that currently bottle and sell water in the state. At the top of the heap is the Nestle-owned Poland Springs.

“We’re starting out small,” Craig Winter said. Winter is a principal and partner in the venture, and he oversees quality control. He’s had long experience with that through his own business, Advanced Quality Water Solutions.

All the water will be bottled on site at Cobbossee Beverage. They have started lining up customers through their own contacts, identifying businesses, schools and people they know who are in the market for bottled water. Both Winter and Bowie know that not all well water is good, and that many people prefer to buy bottled water rather than going to the expense of treating their own.

But even as bottled water offers convenience, it presents an environmental challenge that is taking the shine off the business for some.

“The plastic bottles are a problem,” Winter said. Other options are problematic, so they’ll keep exploring options.

“We’re looking for something more environmentally friendly than plastic,” Bowie said.

In the meantime, they are working to get Maine Mist off the ground.

“We’ve done so much work in the last four or five years,” Deb Bowie said. “We’ve spent time and our own money on the store, and it’s the same for the water company.”

“People don’t realize what it takes to run a business,” Ed Bowie said. “The rewards are great. Creating something yourself, knowing you did it and your family did it. It’s important.”

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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