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Mecosta County, MI

Mecosta County, Michigan, lies at the center of a water issue that is only beginning to be heard in the bottled water debate: should a multinational be allowed to privatize a public resource?

When Nestle announced plans to build a water bottling plant in Mecosta in 2000, some residents were alarmed.

And – it turns out – with good cause.

While Neste trumpets its environmentally friendly ethic – and says it would never harm an aquifer – that’s exactly what they did in Mecosta.

The Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation (MCWC) sued, and after reviewing the damage done to the watershed by Nestle’s excessive withdrawals, a judge ordered Nestle to cease pumping immediately.

When forced to comply, Nestle worked out a deal where they halved their pumping rate, but in classic fashion, they continued their litigation while looking for new sources of water.

The Michigan Department of Enviornmental Quality (DEQ) – the same folks who happily permitted the first damaging water extraction – recently permitted yet another Nestle extraction well, and this despite flawed data.

Why is this significant?

It’s important to note that Nestle – despite losing several battles – didn’t lose the war. In fact, their water bottling capacity at their Mecosta County plant is now almost exactly what they initially targeted.

In other words, through lawsuits and heavy-duty lobbying designed to weaken water protection rules, they got what they wanted – despite adverse legal decisions and public opposition.

They’re also attempting to increase their allowable pumping levels past the injunction levels, and the MCWC are being forced to fight them again in court (a battle which Nestle lost, and badly)

That’s a lesson other rural towns would be wise to heed.

UPDATES

Nestle lost its battle to raise its pumping levels, settling on lower rates on the first day the court case began. It’s a big victory for the MCWC and water warriors everywhere!

To read a detailed examination of exactly what happened in Mecosta County, MI, read our summary post and environmental attorney Jim Olson’s lengthy article here.

20 comments

1 Josh Wilt { 09.18.08 at 6:41 pm }

I’m form shrine catholic high school in Royal oak mi. we have a class of 19 students doing a research project agianst the netle water company in Mecosta county MI. we have some really good info!

2 TC { 09.19.08 at 5:29 pm }

Josh! I’d love to see your information – you can use the “contact” page to send me an email, and I’ll get you my email address.

3 Drew Fisher { 01.08.09 at 8:02 am }

Though I’ve been aware of the Mecosta County-Nestle battle (Through Yes! Magazine, et al.) for a little while, and water and other “commons” corporatization and privitization issues have been on my radar for a little longer (thanks to Thom Hartmann et al.), it was not until last night’s viewing of the film documentary “FLOW” that I became enlightened as to the truly criminal and immoral behaviors corporations, the IMF, World Bank, and their puppet governments (which is meant to include the US of A). While I want to get on board with the water privatization fight, I believe the real issues lie in 1) the abuses and deprivations “we, the people” have been subjected to due to the absurd, immoral, and UNnatural usurpation of the “personhood” status by corporations, and 2) runaway capitalism which invariably chooses profits over people, economic shortcuts over the environment, anthropocentric mythologies over biologic realities.

4 Peggy Parker { 02.11.09 at 2:05 pm }

Thank you for your work to keep the public informed. I saw the documentary FLOW last night and can’t get what is happening in Michigan out of my mind. I was born in Michigan and grew up in the UP. I live in Wisconsin now and am so grateful that Nestle did not steal the water in Adams County. Unfortunately, they moved on to Michigan when the people of Wisconsin forced them out. Good luck getting rid of them and getting your water back.

I told six people today about Nestle and encouraged them not to buy any Nestle products. I plan to tell many more. Maybe we can make a financial impact!

5 Jim Murphy { 04.22.09 at 11:50 am }

I just happened to watch the show on Sundance channel last night and could not stop thinking about what is happening in Michigan. It is an outrage what Nestle has been able to get away with in Michigan. The story is enough for all Great Lakes residents to keep a watch over their shoulder for the next company like Nestle that attempts this same stunt – I live in Ohio and on Lake Erie- good luck in the continued fight against Nestle-

I will encourage people to steer clear of all Nestle products!!

6 TC { 04.23.09 at 4:09 pm }

The game isn’t over in Michigan; I believe the citizen’s group that challenged Nestle before may challenge their current pumping levels. More to come on that one, though I’m not plugged into the Michigan folks as much as I’d like to be.

7 Leslie Walker { 04.23.09 at 5:10 pm }

I live in Chaffee County, where Nestle wants to extract and bottle spring water. I am against confirmation, but, just in case, I’d like help in justifying a sizable contribution to a community foundation. Nestle has offered a $500,000 endowment, foundations by law must give 5% of the principal, which would total a minimum of $25,000/year. This is paltry! In case Nestle does not get defeated, Id like to look at Plan B – an increased endowment. I suggested to the Nestle rep that $2 million wd be more appropriate, he asked where I got my figures, but I had no justification. We are a county of 16,000 with probably 25 non-profits, hence $1000/year. I can’t get anything solid from the Nestle site or reports. But I’d like to insist that if they take our water that they leave us w/ a far larger endowment. Is there another community where they’ve donated $?

8 TC { 04.24.09 at 9:24 am }

This subject really calls for a separate post, which I’ll write if I can find the time.

First, this cannot be classified as an economic benefit to the county. It’s not in any real sense. It’s simply a bribe – and a cheap one.

And there are huge questions of control – if Nestle retains control of the endowment, then it simply becomes another hammer to use on the community, rewarding those who toe Nestle’s line and punishing those who don’t.

Nestle has donated money to other communities – typically one-time gifts that they swore would not become PR levers, but inevitably did.

9 CR { 04.24.09 at 6:02 pm }

The first thing to realize is that these huge corp like Nestle (Coke, Pepsi…) could care totally less about anybody or anything but profits! They’ll sell their mothers for money & power. With sales of over $35 billion worldwide in the bottled water market, (there’s your justification Leslie) they’ll do whatever it takes to buy up pure springs around the world. They reap the profits while local communities die slowly. And they sleep at night. These are the worthless scabs we’re dealing with. Scary. Boycotting these companies is a no brainer. That should be the least of it. More drastic measures are needed. We need to scream even louder, climb to higher authorities. These comp. can keep their measly, pathetic one-time gifts, ha. Laughable. We are all pawns in their game, and for too long. However, I believe there are more of us than them. Let’s keep on sticking.

10 ruth arboleyda { 05.06.09 at 5:04 pm }

I’m from Mexico. I’m an academic who has some research about the use of water in international waters (Río Bravo-Grande). I’m interested to know more about your legal case and the legal doctrinal bases that supported the resolution favorable to you. That is because I don’t know if in Michigan applies the “priority of approppiation” thesis; being the case, the resolution is more important yet.

11 Loud Voices from Down Under | BlueGranola { 09.21.09 at 5:00 pm }

[...] In Mecosta County, Michigan a group called Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation (MCWC) sued Nestle last year after the company began excessively pumping at a nearby watershed. MCWC won the case and [...]

12 Ryan { 01.20.10 at 2:28 pm }

I am glad that people are standing up for their towns and the aquifers. I think people should gather together to stop this type of action. I have watched Flow and Blue Gold, and I am glad to see and be apart of people trying to change the world for the better. I have already signed up for certain bills and I hope that we can change the world for the better. Nothing is stronger than a foot march of people! Good job!

13 Lorelei { 02.24.10 at 7:46 pm }

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16 Take action to keep Nestlé away from our water | { 06.14.11 at 11:36 pm }

[...] has been proven in the communities of McCloud, CA; Fryeburg, ME; Chaffee County, CO; and Mecosta County, MI. And that is exactly what we need to prevent in Oregon. The Columbia River Gorge, its fish, its [...]

17 There Are No Plastic Water Bottles in Heaven | Two Cathedrals { 06.29.11 at 10:32 am }

[...] Privatization of this public resource is bad for all of us, but especially developing and third-world countries. Many private water bottling companies exploit these areas, ironically only to pollute the local drinking water supply in the process. Oh, and it’s happening in the USA too. [...]

18 jon mikesell { 10.08.11 at 1:33 am }

does anyone do the SIMPLE math here 500,000 gallons a day going into 16 oz. bottles sold for profit( bottles that end up in the ocean) ( made of plastic that leaches bi-phenol acetate) equates with over a 2 million dollar sales figure for just ONE DAY? of production…. oh yeah that would be over 4 million bottles a day too….. sounds like a sick way to play with the environment…..we do not need bottled water….this is a result of scare tactics given to us by the media…. oh I wonder how many affiliated t.v. and radio stations nestle or their “sister ” companies own? I am consistently overwhelmed with the average persons apathy and outright stupidity regarding making the correct choices do not buy nestle toll house morsels…or purina dog food….PUH LEES????

19 Profits Before People: 7 of the World’s Most Irresponsible Companies - Eco-Chick { 02.04.13 at 4:52 pm }

[...] ethic, saying it would never harm an aquifer, that’s exactly what they have done in places like Mecosta County, Michigan, damaging the watershed with excessive withdrawals, reaping huge profits and leaving the locals to [...]

20 Barbara Nix { 04.21.13 at 10:01 pm }

Please! How can I help?