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Nestle seeks increased bottled water takings in Michigan

Nestle is seeking a permit to extract about 2.2 million litres of water a day from a well in Michigan.

MLive reports, “Nestle Waters North America is asking the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) for permission to increase allowed pumping from 150 to 400 gallons-per-minute [under a proposed increase on White Pine Springs well No. 101 in Osceola Township]. The DEQ already issued a draft approval for the request in January and is accepting public comment on the proposal until Thursday, Nov. 3.”

The news report also notes, “The Nestle proposal was published last month in the DEQ Environmental Calendar, a bi-weekly clearinghouse for permitting decisions, new administrative rules and other official notices that is not widely read by the general public. …The DEQ hasn’t received any public comment on Nestle’s proposal, according to Carrie Monosmith, environmental health chief in the [Office of Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance].”

The well is located about 520 metres north of the headwaters of Chippewa Creek and 4 kilometres east of Twin Creek, both tributaries of the Muskegon River. In their permit application Nestle claims that average water levels in Twin and Chippewa creeks would “decline only minimally” and that while “an incremental effect of the proposed increased withdrawal on wetland water levels may occur in five wetlands, [it] is not expected to cause adverse ecological effects.”

The water would be bottled at Nestle’s Ice Mountain plant, which is situated about 190 kilometres northwest of Flint.

Flint’s drinking water supply became contaminated with lead after the city switched its water supply in 2014 to save money. It had been accessing its drinking water through the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, but Flint’s emergency manager, appointed by the state, ordered the city to draw its water from the long-polluted and corrosive Flint River to save about $5 million. Flint returned to Detroit’s system after a year, but there are concerns that the damage to the pipes continues to leach lead. Exposure to lead can cause serious health issues in children and adults.

Nestle currently operates wells in Mecosta and Osceola, and sources water from the Evart municipal system. MLive notes, “Between 2005 and 2015, the company withdrew more than 3.4 billion gallons of water from its three well fields, according to state DEQ data.”

Common Dreams notes, “The interstate Great Lakes compact prohibits water diversions outside of the Great Lakes basin, but a bottling exemption within the law allows water to be sold outside the region if it’s shipped in bottles smaller than 5.7 gallons.”

The Council of Canadians expresses solidarity with our Michigan water justice allies opposed to Nestle water takings. In October 2015, Council of Canadians activists from across the country, Vanessa Gray from the Aamjiwnaang First Nation and independent media joined with American allies for a Toxic Tour of Detroit and follow-up strategy discussion. Among the issues discussed were the ongoing disconnections of water services in Detroit. Tens of thousands of people have had their water cut off if they fall $150 behind in their bills, a gross violation of their human right to water.

For more on our campaign to stop Nestle bottled-water takings in southern Ontario and British Columbia, please click here. To date, 39,806 people have signed our pledge to not buy bottled water and not buy Nestle products. To join add your name to this Boycott Nestle pledge, please click here.