Nestle was granted a permit to increase its groundwater withdrawal from 250 gallons per minute to 400 gallons per minute. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) was the organization that granted the company this permit to extract the water from the White Pine Springs for the purpose of selling bottled drinking water.
This approval comes after earlier last month it was discovered that about 64% of bottled water is tap water.
The approval went through despite, almost universal opposition from the residents in the White Pine Springs area. A lot of the residents are also pointing to the fact that there is a $200 yearly fee to pump the water from its wells, and the fee is not increasing even though Nestle is prepared to pump even more water this year.
Approximately 120 miles away from the White Pine Springs well is the lead poisoned city of Flint. Which has angered a lot of citizens, because they see their communities water supply being privatized in the face of Flint’s years-long water drinking crisis? Due to water bottle companies, residents have been billed hundreds of dollars for water they can’t drink.
“Michiganders know that no private company should be able to generate profits by undermining our state’s precious natural resources, which is why an unprecedented number of people spoke up to oppose this permit, out of 81,862 comments filed by the people of our state, only 75 of them were in favor of the permit.” ,” State Sen. Rebekah Warren, D-Ann Arbor told the Detroit Free Press this (she serves on the Senate’s Natural Resources Committee).
MDEQ responded to accusations and the critics who are blaming the organization for allowing Nestle to pump more water for their company by saying that the application sent by Nestle met all of the requirements under the Michigan Safe Drinking Water Act.
“The scope and detail of the department’s review of the Nestlé permit application represents the most extensive analysis of any water withdrawal in Michigan history, we are hopeful that whether residents agree with the Nestlé permitting decision or not, they will acknowledge and respect the work that MDEQ staff did to thoroughly and conscientiously apply the law in reviewing the permit, said C. Heidi Grether, director of MDEQ.
She also added, “In full transparency, the majority of the public comments received were in opposition of the permit, but most of them related to issues of public policy which are not, and should not be, part of an administrative permit decision. We cannot base our decisions on public opinion because our department is required to follow the rule of law when making determinations.”
In order for Nestle to actually go through with this, the company has to prepare a monitoring plan that is consistent with all of the requirements of the permit, and then submit everything to MDEQ before it is authorized to take more water.
The Michigan League of Conservation Voters has severely criticized the MDEQ’s decision by tweeting, “Sadly, the DEQ chose to give the green light to Nestlé to continue pumping our water—hanging a ‘For Sale’ sign on Michigan’s water resources at a time when communities across our state lack safe, affordable access to drinking water.”
Nicholas Occhipinti is the organization’s government affair director, and he told a Michigan Radio Station about how hard it is for people in Michigan to see their water pumped out of the watershed for other states to use.
What do you think about MDEQ’s decision in light of Michigan’s recent water problem?