While the water documentary FLOW highlights several key water quality and ownership issues, readers of this blog might be most interested in the section on Nestle’s water bottling operation in Mecosta County, Michigan.
The film was damaging enough that Nestle felt compelled to produce a corporate rebuttal video – which sadly falls to the same level of misinformation Nestle’s applied to other “problems” (like its lopsided contract in McCloud or its multiple lawsuits against the town of Fryeburg).
If you’ve got a strong stomach, you can view the video by clicking here.
After you’ve seen it – and if you’re at all familiar with the losses Nestle’s suffered in the Michigan courts over the impacts of its pumping operation (and the fact that they were forced to dramatically curtail pumping under threat of an injunction) – you might wonder how those facts square with those “no impact” statements offered in the video.
The reason? Nestle’s lying.
Read this Jim Olson response to the Nestle Corporate video (posted on the MLive site in response to a pro-Nestle comment touting the Nestle video), and Nestle’s level of deceit becomes apparent:
I viewed the Nestle ad video last night.
Following, are the basic facts as attorney for Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation in the MCWC v Nestle case. Should you or anyone want to verify, simply read the lengthy, but informative and readable court opinions at ww.SaveMIwater.org. The story is all there. You will see how contrived and and misleading the video message and comment by Muchmore really are. Basically, the video does not disclose that Nestle lost on these statements, positions, whatever you call them, at trial.
1. Nestle held public meetings when it first entered the State, but did not disclose all the underlying hydrogeological data, that is the flows, levels,and effects of pump tests on the springs, stream, connected lakes.
2. Once MCWC and others persuaded Nestle to turn the underlying data over, it was reviewed by experts. The raw data showed springs entering the headwaters of the stream from the Sanctuary property (into the impoundment known as Osprey Lake Impoundment) basically lost most or half their flow; the flow through the outlet of the impoundment into the upper reach of the stream dropped by 50%. At one point in the pump test, a consultant measured a 65% drop in flow 1/3 to 1/2 mile downstream near the state highway M20 bridge. In addition, the computer model found no impact, because it contained a “fence” on the lake and stream parameters that assumed infinite supply of water, hence no effects.
3. Nestle hired a new expert, more data on flows, levels, and pumping, was collected, and a new model run made. The new expert’s report, recognized significant drops in flows 18% and by extrapolation as high as 35% om stream during low flow months of Summer. The model also recognized a significant drop in level of Osprey Lake Impoundment from the reduced flows.
4. MCWC’s experts found more than 28% drop in flow of stream, 2 inch drop in stream, narrowing of stream by more than 4 feet, drops in levels of Osprey Lake Impoundment by 4 to 6 inches, and the same at Thompson Lake. Freshwater biologsts and wetland experts determined that these kind of drops would have adverse environmental impacts, from loss of wetlands area and habitat, aquatic habitat along stream edges, temperature increases, exposed bottomlands, and drying of wetlands along Thompson Lake. In addition, riparian and public use diminished because of difficulty in canoing or kayaking over certain stretches.
5. Despite Nestle’s video misrepresents that there are no effects or adverse impacts, they are trying the case they lost in the trial court, appellate courts of Michigan in a video to the public. Pathetically, sad. The trial court found major effects in drops in flows and levels, and impairment of the environment, and that Nestle violated the Michigan Environmental Protection Act and its pumping caused and would cause substantial harm and interference with riparian interests and was unreasonable use under Michigan water law because of the drops in flows, levels, and impacts. The Court of Appeals, even though relaxing unreasonable us standard in favor of Nestle, concluded pumping at 400 gpm was unreasonable and unlawful, and affirmed the trial court’s findings of substantial harm and interference, and the trial court’s conclusion that, after 19 days of scientific battling in court. The trial court found Nestle’s experts were not credible, going so far as calling one a “company man.” The Court of Appeals affirmed the substantial harm findings. The Supreme Court let the findings stand, despite Nestle’s arguments to the contrary.
6. Effects and impacts have continued during the low flow seasons of 2003, 2004, 2005, ,2007. Nestle is under an injunctive order to reduce pumping below 125 gpm or more during Summer months, and that is because of effects and impacts. Nestle and Plaintiffs stipulated and agreed to these limits as part of injunction remedy after liability was affirmed.
7. MCWC and Nestle are back in court, with hearing scheduled for March 2009, to refine the injunction, because Nestle’s pumping needs to be reduced more during low flow seasons or cycles, given the continued harm.
And, yes, there is not one independent or neutral carrier in Nestle’s video. Noah Hall, despite his representations, has supported Nestle, despite his attestations he doesn’t personally do bottled water, including Nestle’s legal arguments to weaken water law to the Michigan Court of Appeals. Russ Harding was former Governor Engler’s appointed Director of environmental quality department, and issued the permits for Nestle for the 4 water wells. Harding has published pro Nestle editorials, and is basically a lackey for the industry. The local well permit guy doesn’t have the expertise or jurisdiction for his statements, and the DEQ punted its responsibility because Russ Harding, in the video, was a director. Nestle’s consultant’s statements lost or were rejected by the courts as noted above.
Jim Olson, Attorney, Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation
While Olson knocks the stuffing out of the Nestle video, it’s clear the thing’s gotten some play among what seems to be an emerging online water punditry, who seem willing to dismiss FLOW’s anti-privatization stance without noting that Nestle’s rebuttal video is wholly misleading.
Even worse, it appears Nestle operatives are posting comments on the Internet below related stories. (Witness the message-perfect comment that fired Jim Olson’s response – the work of a Nestle PR person perhaps?)
It’s either blind advocacy or stealth marketing – neither of which is exactly ethical – and it’s yet another sign of Nestle Water’s ongoing lack of integrity.