Council of Canadians campaigner asks Michigan to reject Nestlé bottled water permit application

Council of Canadians water campaigner Emma Lui has written this letter to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to ask that it reject a permit application from Nestlé Waters North America.

The Swiss transnational is seeking permission from the DEQ to increase the amount of water (from 150 gallons per minute to 400 gallons per minute) it draws from a well north of Evart in Osceola Township for its bottled water operations.

Lui highlights, "Water is a human right, commons and public trust, to be shared, protected, carefully managed and enjoyed by all who live around it. In July 2010, the United Nations General Assembly recognized the human rights to water and sanitation, and the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals also recognized these fundamental rights. The human rights to water and sanitation must be recognized at every level of government."

If the permit is granted, Nestlé could withdraw up to 210 million gallons of water per year from a well for the cost of a $200 annual fee.

That 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, Nestlé 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."

While Nestlé's claim does not reassure, a Metro Times article highlights, "Environmental activists cite a host of problems with the well pumping as it is, including disappearing fish species, loss of habitat, and drawdowns in surface water flow. They also argue that the application is flawed, not just with incorrect flow data, but with incorrect control data that has water running uphill."

In a sign of growing opposition, the Osceola Township Planning Commission voted 5-0 on April 18 to deny a request from Nestlé to build a crucial new pumping station needed to withdraw the water. While significant, the fight continues. MLive reports, "Nestlé can appeal the decision to the township Zoning Board of Appeals and, if necessary, circuit court. It could also try again with a new application."

The water would be bottled at Nestlé's Ice Mountain plant which is situated about 190 kilometres northwest of Flint. Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow will be speaking against the transnational corporation's global water-taking operations at a public forum in that city this June.

The Detroit News has reported there is no timetable for the DEQ to make its decision on the permit application.

The Council of Canadians also has this ongoing campaign against Nestlé bottled-water takings in Ontario and British Columbia.

And we express our solidarity with activists - including the Center for Biological Diversity, the Story of Stuff Project and The Courage Campaign - who oppose Nestlé water takings in California.

To see a recent 1-minute TeleSur video about Nestlé drawing 36 million gallons of water a year from the San Bernardino National Forest in drought-stricken California (at a cost to the company of $524 a year) with a permit that expired in 1988, please click here.

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