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Michigan DEQ Awards Nestle Permit Despite Flawed Data, History of Environmental Damage

When Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) recently permitted yet another Nestle well (to feed its Stanfield Ice Mountain water bottling plant), the Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation (MCWC) felt a sense of deja vu.

After all, this is the same DEQ that permitted Nestle’s original bottling plant, which was later the subject of an MCWC lawsuit. That suit proved conclusively that Nestle’s bottling operations were harming the riparian habitat and watershed, and Nestle was forced to cut its water “take” by half – to 218 gallons per minute.

An unchastened Nestle – who falsely claims its operations don’t harm the environment – didn’t stop looking for new sources of water.

They found one just north of Evart in Osceola County, and the DEQ happily permitted the new well – despite the fact the data supplied by Nestle was actually collected way, way downstream from the two potentially affected (and highly prized) trout streams.

Jim Olson – MCWC attorney – said (via the Great Lakes Blogger):

“MCWC and others filed sound scientific and expert comments that the determination was flawed back in 2007. The company and DEQ relied on monitoring affects and stream measurements far below the headwaters and Decker Pond. ” Jim Olson, the environmental attorney for MCWC said. “How can you measure the harm of pumping on the upper reach of a valuable trout stream by relying on measurements below the area of influence? That’s like taking a blood pressure reading around your foot.”

It’s a good example of Nestle’s tendency to run their bottling plants into collection points for water from several locations. In Maine and Michigan, water pumping stations – which don’t provide jobs or any real economic stimulus to rural areas – are established to feed bottling plants.

Rural communities face increased truck traffic, increased water withdrawals from the aquifer, and do so without any economic benefit.

McCloud’s residents should also consider this a warning; when denied its planned water intake, Nestle simply found others sources to help meet its profit goals. In fact, its current permitted capacity is only a tiny bit less than what it originally sought.

That’s why downsizing its McCloud bottling plant is hardly a guarantee of reduced impact on Siskiyou County’s watersheds; the reduction could easily lead to Nestle running water-taking operations all over Siskiyou County – dramatically increasing the amount of truck traffic rumbling along the county’s narrow roads.

Terry Swier – the President of Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation – was unhappy with the DEQ’s approval:

“After MCWC proved in the lower and appellate courts of Michigan that spring water that  needs the headwaters of lakes and streams causes harm and should not be removed from Michigan’s watershed, the DEQ and Nestlé have teamed up once again,” she said. “And, what’s really alarming is that the DEQ’s approval yesterday comes after Michigan has supposedly enacted a new water law package that is supposed to regulate and stop this kind of nonsense.”

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