Tag Archives: michigan citizens for water conservation

Mecosta County Fight Over, Citizens Winners, Nestle Greenwashing Like Crazy

Be prepared for an avalanche of corporate spin from this one: Nestle has settled their nearly decade-long legal dispute with the Michigan Citiznes for Water Conservation (MCWC) in Mecosta County, MI.

And by every measure, the MCWC won.

It appears that Nestle was ultimately forced to do the right thing by the citizens group, yet – true to form – they’re suggesting this is proof they’re a watershed friendly company.

Well, maybe when they’re forced to be by the courts.

First, the story from the Detroit Free Press:

Decade-long bottled water dispute settled | Freep.com | Detroit Free Press

The makers of Ice Mountain bottled water and a group of environmentalists who waged a decade-long fight to block or cap the company’s withdrawal of groundwater in northwest lower Michigan announced a final legal agreement today.

Under the agreement Nestle Waters North America can pump an average of 218 gallons per minute (about 313,000 gallons a day), with restrictions on spring and summer withdrawals deemed most threatening to the Dead Stream and Thompson Lake near Mecosta.

It was reached on the eve of what was expected to be a weeklong court hearing on requested modifications of an earlier, temporary agreement.

Terry Swier, president of Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation, called the resolution a “major victory” for defenders of the resource, affirming limits first placed on Nestle by a Mecosta County judge in 2003.

For those not familiar with the whole wretched story, Nestle initially pumped 400 cfs from the source in question, and refused to modify that pumping regime – even after it became clear to all involved that too much water was being withdrawn, and the watershed was suffering.

In fact, Nestle was wholly unresponsive until a judge threatened Nestle with an injunction. In the face of the loss of all the water, Nestle finally did negotiate a lower withdrawal, and astonishingly, later created a video (in response to the movie FLOW) which touted the watershed-friendly nature of their current regime – without noting that they were forced to pump at that level.

In the face of yet another court battle, Nestle – probably aware how much their predatory stance in Mecosta was being perceived in other rural towns (where their free ride was over) – negotiated the flow regime the MCWC felt was needed to protect the watershed (218 cfs, reductions at other times of the year).

Congratulations are due to the MCWC, who fought Nestle’s irresponsible pumping behavior for ten years (at the cost of nearly $1 million) and finally won.

I fully expect Nestle to hold this sordid episode up as a shining example of their concern for the health of watersheds, but it simply won’t fly; they were forced to reduce pumping in Mecosta, and performed absolutely zero watershed flow monitoring in McCloud until (again) they were forced to.

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Terry Swier of Michigan’s Statement Challenges Nestle’s Whitewash of Michigan Bottling Plant

How does one Michigan resident feel about Nestle Waters of North America’s “good neighbor” corporate spin?

Judge for yourself:

Statement from Terry Swier, Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation, at the Nestle Waters North America Headquarters | Corporate Accountability International

I am Terry Swier, the President of Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation (MCWC), a grassroots environmental group with 2,000 members. I am here today to tell Nestlé that MCWC is committed to continue the fight to protect the waters of the Great Lakes Basin for our children and generations to come.

Our lives have changed over the past eight years, since Nestlé came to Michigan with plans to pump 720,000 gallons per day of spring water from a private hunting preserve, pipe it to its plant, bottle it, and ship it out of the Great Lakes Basin for its own profit. Nestlé’s pumping has lowered a stream, two lakes, and adjacent wetlands. Nestlé continues to pump at high rates during periods of lower rainfall and recharge. And this is the just the tip of Nestlé Ice Mountain:

• MCWC has taken Nestlé to court to prove that water belongs to the people. MCWC vs. Nestlé is heading back to the courts in July of this to ask for adjustment of Nestlé’s pumping levels to prevent further environmental impacts. Nestlé has challenged the right of citizen groups, like ours, to bring lawsuits to protect land that is not on our own property, even though ecological damage affects us all. This is not about just bottled water. This is a battle over who will own and control the water. To date, MCWC has spent more than a $1,000,000 in court costs and lawyer and environmental experts’ fees. Nestlé is determined to run us dry in more ways than one and no amount of talk about being a ‘good neighbor’ will change that fact.

• To compound matters, Nestlé hired a polling firm to call targeted residents and ask questions about my leadership qualities and character.

• The corporation has also sent private investigators to homes of people who had signed MCWC’s referendum asking intimidating questions about whether they understood what they were signing, most likely with the hope of invalidating the referendum.

• What’s more, Nestlé threatened a potential Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation; know as a SLAPP suit, against my son and others who spoke out publicly about the company’s bad practices.

• And the corporation has also leveraged policymakers, actively pursuing and being granted tax breaks, grants, and numerous favors in spite of its poor environmental record and its exportation of water from Michigan.

With Nestlé the story is always the same; the only difference is the address.

It’s interesting to read Ms. Swier’s experience with the company in light of Nestle’s whitewashing of the Michigan issue at a recent “community input” meeting in McCloud, where – true to form – the Swiss multinational forgot to mention the push polling, investigators, and Nestle’s suit limiting the right of Michigan’s citizens to protect the environment.

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What Happens When Nestle Enters a Rural Community (Statement from Terry Swier of Michigan)

Terry Swier of Michigan has experienced Nestle Waters of North America’s predatory approach to rural communities firsthand; the Swiss multinational threatened a SLAPP suit (an intimidation lawsuit) aimed at those opposing them (eerily similar to their attempt to subpoena the private financial records of local opposed to their McCloud contract).

From the Corporate Accountability Web site comes this statement from Ms. Swier – which should be required reading by the citizens of any town on the receiving end of Nestle’s attentions:

Statement from Terry Swier, Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation, at the Nestle Waters North America Headquarters

I am Terry Swier, the President of Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation (MCWC), a grassroots environmental group with 2,000 members. I am here today to tell Nestlé that MCWC is committed to continue the fight to protect the waters of the Great Lakes Basin for our children and generations to come.

Our lives have changed over the past eight years, since Nestlé came to Michigan with plans to pump 720,000 gallons per day of spring water from a private hunting preserve, pipe it to its plant, bottle it, and ship it out of the Great Lakes Basin for its own profit. Nestlé’s pumping has lowered a stream, two lakes, and adjacent wetlands. Nestlé continues to pump at high rates during periods of lower rainfall and recharge. And this is the just the tip of Nestlé Ice Mountain:

• MCWC has taken Nestlé to court to prove that water belongs to the people. MCWC vs. Nestlé is heading back to the courts in July of this to ask for adjustment of Nestlé’s pumping levels to prevent further environmental impacts. Nestlé has challenged the right of citizen groups, like ours, to bring lawsuits to protect land that is not on our own property, even though ecological damage affects us all. This is not about just bottled water. This is a battle over who will own and control the water. To date, MCWC has spent more than a $1,000,000 in court costs and lawyer and environmental experts’ fees. Nestlé is determined to run us dry in more ways than one and no amount of talk about being a ‘good neighbor’ will change that fact.

• To compound matters, Nestlé hired a polling firm to call targeted residents and ask questions about my leadership qualities and character.

• The corporation has also sent private investigators to homes of people who had signed MCWC’s referendum asking intimidating questions about whether they understood what they were signing, most likely with the hope of invalidating the referendum.

• What’s more, Nestlé threatened a potential Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation; know as a SLAPP suit, against my son and others who spoke out publicly about the company’s bad practices.

• And the corporation has also leveraged policymakers, actively pursuing and being granted tax breaks, grants, and numerous favors in spite of its poor environmental record and its exportation of water from Michigan.

With Nestlé the story is always the same; the only difference is the address.

Nestle Produces Rebuttal Video to Damaging FLOW Movie, Neglects to Mention One Fact: They’re Lying.

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.

TIME Covers the War on the Water Front – Singles Out Nestle

A short article in TIME chronicles the nationwide battle over water, and not surprisingly, Nestle Waters of North America is singled out for their involvement in multiple battles:

Nestlé, with six of the top 10 brands and more than $2.2 billion in bottled-water sales, is the largest bottled-water company in the U.S., and it’s at the center of a water war on several fronts. As owner of Poland Spring, which uses 500 million gallons of Maine water a year, Nestlé could owe $96 million in tax each year if Wilfong’s proposal is passed. “His mission is misguided,” says Kim Jeffery, CEO of Nestlé North America, which now pays only for the land where the springs are found. In response to a new tax, he says, Nestlé would cancel a planned new plant, costing the state 250 jobs.

In Michigan, Nestlé is facing environmental challenges. Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation has filed a civil lawsuit to stop Nestlé from withdrawing 210 million gallons of water a year near the small town of Stanwood, arguing that groundwater levels are dropping dangerously; Nestlé says they are healthy. The state legislature is considering 16 bills to set limits on withdrawals of groundwater. In a similar battle over Florida’s springs, Nestlé has so far prevailed.

Why Nestle? Their tendency to elevate corporate water-taking targets – and profits – over the health of local watersheds puts them squarely at ground zero.

Will the company – long targeted by activists for predatory marketing of baby formula and its less-than-savory approach to rural communities – ever reform itself?

Given its recent efforts to greenwash its bottled water efforts, that seems unlikely.

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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