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.
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.