The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, DEQ, heard from Michigan residents in a big way. The public opposition to a new proposal from Nestle to double the amount of pure fresh water pumped from Michigan’s sole major aquifer was 80,945 against to 75 in favor.
Nestle, a company based in Switzerland, can already suck and export up to 250 gallons a minute from a well in Evart, Michigan. Now it wants a new permit that would allow the company to pump 400 gallons of water each minute of the day, 365 days a year.
The Michigan DEQ got an unprecedented number of public comments on Nestle’s pompous request, that started over two years ago.
But it’s not over. It turns out that the Michigan DEQ is powerless to stop the foreign company proceeding with their plan despite overwhelming opposition.
“We cant, we don’t have the power to say no arbitrarily. We can’t just say no for reasons that aren’t attached to the law.” said Matt Gamble, the Department of Environmental Quality supervisor who’s coordinating the response effort.
Looks like legislative bodies will have to step up and lead. We are not hopeful.
Michigan residents have only a few more days to express their views on letting Nestle, a foreign company, to expand its capability of pumping millions of gallons of pure water from Michigan’s aquifer for a mere $200.
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) has a public comment period regarding Nestlé Waters North America, Evart, Osceola County, for a proposed increased large quantity water withdrawal made under Section 17 of the Michigan Safe Drinking Water Act, 1976 PA 399. Comments will be accepted until March 3, 2017.
Nestlé announced a $36-million expansion at its Ice Mountain bottling operations in Stanwood, in Mecosta County, on Oct. 31. In a state still reeling from the Flint water crisis, the Swiss company would get nearly free access to pump 210m gallons a year for its bottled water business.
The company’s proposal to increase pumping from 150 gallons a minute to 400 gallons a minute from an aquifer underneath the plant is part of the expansion of the bottled water operations in Michigan. The company has already increased pumping to 250 gallons per minute, an increase for which no permit was required.
The blogosphere and news sites have been bristling that former President of the United States, Barack Obama allowed water from Great Lakes region to be pumped and sold to China. It’s a Lie. What’s worse is that none of these blog authors are checking the facts. Their lazy practice is to re-blog poorly written posts from inflammatory sites. Here is the Truth.
Lie #1 – Obama Allowed Great Lakes Water to Be Sold To China as Half the U.S. Faces Extreme Water Crisis
This overused inflammatory headline refers to the ability for companies to bottle water within the Great Lakes watershed. Quotes such as, “Why are we allowing foreign corporations such as Nestle to make millions upon millions of dollars pumping water out of the Great Lakes and selling it overseas?” This is not new news. Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Avita, and Nestle have been operating in Michigan and surrounding states for over 15 years. At least now, Nestle and other companies are operating under the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact enacted by the 110th United States Congress effective December 8, 2008, before Obama took office. This Public Law 110-342 was introduced in the Senate by Carl Levin (D – Michigan) on July 23, 2008, passed the Senate on August 1, 2008, by unanimous consent, passed the House of Representatives on September 23, 2008, and finally signed into law by President George W. Bush on October 3, 2008.
Half-Lie #2 – Companies are pumping millions of gallons of water out of the Great Lakes and selling it to China.
There is bit of truth to this. Companies can collect and bottle water in the Great Lakes region but only in containers of 5.7 gallons or less. However the collection of water is not directly from the lakes but from the aquifers in the region. Since 2000, Nestle Waters North America sell bottled “Spring Water” marketed with the Ice Mountain label. It’s bottling centers are located in Mecosta County, Michigan, and Guelph, Ontario. Each plant supposedly bottles 700,000 gallons a day. However, a 2000 report by the International Joint Commission noted that the Great Lakes basin imports 14 times the amount of bottled water that is withdrawn and shipped elsewhere.
Lie #3 – Obama allowed container ships to come into the Great Lakes, fill up and export our water to Asia.
Long before Obama was a national politician Canada was looking to sell Great Lakes water wholesale. In 1998 the Nova Group obtained a permit from Canada’s Ontario Ministry of the Environment to export approximately 160 million gallons per year of water from Lake Superior for export to Asia in bulk containers. Due to objections of Great Lakes governors and citizens the permit was revoked.
Lie #4 – Foreign companies are pumping water out of the Great Lakes without limits.
Switzerland company Nestlé has been operating a water bottling plant in Michigan since 2000. In 2009 the Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation sued Nestle Waters North America/Ice Mountain. In 2009 a final, out-of-court settlement was reached whereby Nestle/Ice Mountain’s water pumping permit was reduced by almost half. Nestlé agreed to lower its spring pumping in Michigan earlier in the spring season during fish spawning and continue low pumping during the summer months to protect the already stressed stream and lake. Other companies that bottled water from the Great Lakes region include Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Avita.
In 2018 Nestle, had been extracting and exporting up to 250 gallons a minute from a well in Evart, Michigan. Nestle filed for a new permit that would allow the company to pump 400 gallons of water each minute of the day, 365 days a year.
The Michigan DEQ is powerless to stop the foreign company from proceeding with their plan despite overwhelming opposition.
The Waukesha Solution
The newest threat comes from Wisconsin. The Milwaukee suburb of Waukesha, Wisconsin, with dangerous levels of radium in their groundwater has been approved to “borrow” up to 8.4 million gallons of Lake Michigan water every day (or 3 billion gallons every year). Waukesha is 17 miles west of Lake Michigan and resides on the cusp of being outside what is considered the Great Lakes Water basin. Normally water from that area would flow into the Mississippi.
The city of Waukesha in June 2016 was given the approval to divert water from Lake Michigan for its drinking water supply after eight representatives from the states that border the Great Lakes voted unanimously to allow the diversion. A single no vote would have scuttled the city’s plan. Per the rules of the compact, Waukesha would have to return the same amount of water it takes from Lake Michigan back into the lake. The water would be treated at a Waukesha water plant and dumped into the Root River, where it would flow into Lake Michigan by way of Racine, Wisconsin.
Waukesha is the first city to apply for a diversion of Great Lakes water since a ban on such practices was enacted in 2008. Canada is reviewing the agreement and may intercede with the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact.
The Great Lakes are Stressed
The largest, longest-standing and most controversial diversion from the Great Lakes is at Chicago, where the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, finished in 1900, reverses the Chicago River and connects Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River. About 88% of all Great Lakes water diversion occurs in Illinois to the Mississippi.
The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 1967 consent decree, limited the Lake Michigan water diversion through the Chicago canal to 3,200 cubic feet of water per second.
There is more water diverted into the Great Lakes then is diverted out; particularly at the Longlac and Ogoki diversions in Ontario. They take water bound for Hudson Bay and divert it to northern Lake Superior at 5,580 cubic feet per second. The diversions were initially created to bolster hydroelectric power generation to help wartime manufacturing in the U.S. during World War I, but then were maintained by mutual agreement between the U.S. and Canada after the war.
2016 – Calls for Nestle to Help With Flint Water Crisis
Calls are continuing requesting that Michigan Governor Rick Snyder take over operations at Nestle’s Michigan Water Bottling Plant in Mecosta County Michigan to bring clean, lead-free drinking water to Flint. Currently, neither the State of Michigan nor the Federal government has begun operations on the water system to bring Flint residents to clean water despite being a declared State of Emergency.
Nestle Sucks Michigan Water to Sell For Practically Nothing
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. Nestle does not pay a dime to the citizens of the State of Michigan for this natural resource nor offer any attempt to restore lost water to the Great Lakes. Nestlé’s pumping has lowered streams, two lakes, and adjacent wetlands. Nestlé continues to pump at high rates during periods of lower rainfall and recharge.
The Flint Water Crisis Continues
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) – the same regulator which permitted Flint’s water to be contaminated and allowed ongoing damaging water extraction by Nestle – recently permitted yet another Nestle extraction well, and this despite flawed data. For details see http://stopnestltewaters.org.
As the crisis in Flint worsens, Matt Zandstra, a father from Wyoming, Michigan resident is partnering with SumOfUs, a global consumer group, to call out Governor Snyder for his close ties to Nestlé. Nestle currently takes water from Michigan’s aquifers at 218 gallons per minute. The petition draws attention to the fact that Flint’s mostly poor and black residents do not have access to safe drinking water, while at the same time Nestlé is the largest owner of private water sources in the state.
Over the past three months, ongoing global news coverage highlighted by MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow’s series of reports on the Flint Water Crisis has brought global attention to the crisis in Michigan and the failure of emergency managers in Michigan.