How you can stop Nestlé from taking our water

At about this time last year, we had a conversation here about Nestlé’s aggressive push to extract, bottle and sell Michigan’s fresh water. Well, as you may have heard, the Swiss company now has plans to nearly double the amount of groundwater they’re taking to 210 million gallons a year, and, as you might expect, people here in Michigan aren’t terribly happy about it. Among those who have decided to fight back, is Ypsilanti author Lara Zielin, who just wrote the following for us. It is, I’m told, the first in a series about how we, the people of Michigan, can start fighting back to protect our environment.

nestle-ice-mountain-water-stolen

“How you can stop Nestlé from taking our water”… by Lara Zielin

As Trump gets ready to dismantle the EPA and weaken environmental regulations, our best way to fight for the health of our communities will be through hyper-local channels. My goal moving forward is to document environmental issues right here in Michigan, and the ways in which you can take direct action to help. Many of the opportunities are easy—emailing, calling, giving online.

This first story is about the Nestlé corporation’s plans to increase the amount of water they can withdraw in Michigan. This piece offers both background and action steps. Here goes:

Many of you may already be aware that the Nestlé corporation has requested a permit that would increase the amount of water they can take out of the ground in their Evart, Michigan plant from 218 gallons of water per minute to 400 gallons of water per minute. A recent MLive story flagged the fact that the Nestle permit was flying under the radar and needed more public input, while this Metro Times story asks how Nestle can bottle water for private profit and truck it out of state while local residents who need clean water, like those in Flint, fail to get it. The Metro Times story also details the environmental havoc the pumping is causing—most alarmingly, a severe water draw-down that has reduced streams and creeks to anemic trickles. The MDEQ, which should be the watchdog for such things, has overridden the science on the issue and, according to the Metro Times, “carefully walked [Nestlé] through the approval process, sweeping unfavorable assessments out of the way based on 15-year-old data.”

How you can take action:

I talked to Peggy Case who is the board president of Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation. She says the top thing to do right now is to contact the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) and tell them you’re not only opposed to the increase, but that you want them to hold multiple public hearings on the issue of water withdrawal—not just in the city of Big Rapids, where Nestlé is headquartered. This is because water is a public resource, not a private one, and is not being distributed equitably. Encourage the MDEQ to have hearings across the state—specifically in Flint, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Traverse City, and Evart. The MDEQ contact is Carrie Monosmith, and her email is deq-eh@michigan.gov. Here is a copy of an email you can send her:

Dear Carrie,

I am emailing you to ask that you do not accept Nestlé’s proposal to increase the amount of groundwater being pumped from its Evart well. The fragile ecosystems that Nestlé will disrupt by pumping 400 gallons per minute are in danger of permanent damage from the increased volume. 

I am also writing to encourage you to open this issue for public comment throughout the state. Safe and clean groundwater is a public resource, not a corporate interest. How this public resource is managed should be discussed in major cities including Grand Rapids, Flint, Detroit, and Traverse City—as well as the city of Evart, where the water will be directly pumped from the ground.

There is no universe in which bottling water is good for humans or good for the planet. Our ecosystems deserve better than to be pillaged for profit at the expense of the greater good. I implore you to deny this request and to hold public forums about this issue in cities throughout Michigan.

Thank you for your consideration.

You can comment on this issue until March. Peggy Case is hoping to flood MDEQ with more than 100,000 comments.

You can also help by:

• Spreading the word and encouraging others to comment to the MDEQ.

• Attend the public hearing(s) when the date is set.

Become a member of the Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation, which is entirely run by volunteers and does not accept any government money.

• Stop buying and drinking bottled water.

• Send additional comments to the EPA in Chicago, which is in charge of the Safe Drinking Water Act. Encourage them to continue to put pressure on Nestle to protect the drinking water of the people in the region and in the state. Their contact information is:

US EPA Region 5
77 W. Jackson Blvd.
Mail Code R-19J
Chicago, IL 60604-3590 

Email: r5hotline@epa.gov

Just down the road from Evart is the proposed site of a potash mine, which will use even more water to extract the mined salt. They want to drill eleven injection wells to dump their toxic waste right back into the ground. More information on this mine—and taking action to stop it—will be the topic for next time.

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13 Comments

  1. Posted January 8, 2017 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

    Lara didn’t mention it here, but, according to The Guardian, all it will cost the company to double their extraction is just $200.

    From The Guradian: “The pumping increase is only expected to cost the Swiss food giant $200 a year, and possibly the price of a permit fee, because its bottling plant in Evart is considered a private well under state law, regulators said.”

  2. Jean Henry
    Posted January 9, 2017 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    One more quick action step petitioning MDEQ head Heidi Grether via Cleam Water Action Michigan: http://org.salsalabs.com/o/2155/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=20860&tag=webaction

  3. Jennifer Schlicht
    Posted January 9, 2017 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    Direct link to comment to the MDEQ you can edit or just send as is: http://bit.ly/2hXe2CU . If you’d rather email them directly, deq-eh@michigan.gov . Deadline is March 3rd.

  4. Demetrius
    Posted January 9, 2017 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    Thanks, Lara, for helping to bring attention to this important issue!

  5. Meta
    Posted January 9, 2017 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    Metro Times: “Conservation group calls for statewide hearings on Nestlé’s water takings”

    Since MCWC has publicized the proposed permit, the period for public comment has been extended until March 3, 2017, and to date more than 13,000 comments have poured in from Michigan residents. Those tasked with reading them haven’t found a positive one yet.

    And MDEQ has to hold at least one hearing, which organizers say would probably take place in February in Big Rapids.

    But here’s where things get really interesting.

    MCWC is taking a broad view of Michigan’s water resources. Given water shutoffs in Detroit and the poisoning of Flint’s city water, the choice to let an international corporation pump tens of millions of extra gallons of water for $200 seems all the more indefensible.

    In a statement released Friday, the group declared, “MCWC believes there is a serious disconnect in the State of Michigan’s water policy that potentially grants Nestle a permit … [while] permitting thousands of people in Detroit to have their household water disconnected for non-payment for a few thousands of gallons of water and the residents of Flint be subjected to long-term contamination of their drinking water through senseless and even possibly criminal governmental acts.”

    That’s why the conservation group is pushing for more than one hearing. In fact, they’d like hearings held all over the state.

    MCWC is requesting several hearings on the Nestlé Permit increases, as we do not believe that this increase is only a local issue. We are requesting from the DEQ hearings in Detroit, Flint, Muskegon, Evart, and Traverse City at a minimum. We would welcome additional hearings beyond these but are specifically seeking these.

    You can imagine the sort of passionate testimony such hearings would get from residents of Detroit, where water shutoffs have cost the city an estimated $12.7 million per year, not to mention Flint, where they pay the highest rates for water in the entire United States — for water that is essentially undrinkable.

    Read more:
    http://www.metrotimes.com/news-hits/archives/2017/01/09/conservation-group-calls-for-statewide-hearings-on-nestles-water-takings

  6. Jen Schlicht
    Posted January 9, 2017 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the article, Lara!

    PS – Thanks for sharing the Clean Water Action online action, Jean! Clean Water Action field organizers are also focusing on this issue. We’ve just got a little under 2 months until the public comment period closes on March 3rd.

    If you’d prefer put pen to paper you can mail letters to our Ann Arbor office (320 Miller, Suite 180, A2 48103) or give them to field organizers if they stop by your house (they’ll be asking!).

    If you have any kids in the house who like to put crayon to paper, kid drawings are *awesome* as well – seriously, those are the best letters to put on top of the stack as we deliver them en masse, in this case to the MDEQ. Plus it’s their future…

  7. Pat Ryan
    Posted January 11, 2017 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

    Please, please, please think about saving and protecting our water quality and quantity. Please do not step back from the issue!

  8. Valerie Deur
    Posted January 11, 2017 at 11:01 pm | Permalink

    i believe nestle’s michigan headquarters in in Stanwood, close, but not in Big Rapids

  9. Valerie Deur
    Posted January 11, 2017 at 11:03 pm | Permalink

    great Laura, that you. i think that the nestle Michigan headquarters is at the plant in Stanwood, close, but not in Big rapids.

  10. Joyce Hoult
    Posted January 16, 2017 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

    This is another mistake for Michigan. We did not know this was happening. The people who live in Michigan should be informed of things like this happening and it should be voted on by the people who live in Michigan. To many people don’t understand what damage this is doing to Michigan. We need to save our natural resources for the generations to come not deplete them. It seems all some people care about anymore is making a buck no matter who suffers from their own selfish gain. I know we need to stop this and put an end to companies using our resources to make a profit. These resources are all of ours not theirs to sell. We all have a say in what our state does with all resources. This needs to be taken to our state representative, ASAP.

  11. Sallee Anderson
    Posted January 20, 2017 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    When and where will meeting dates be published?

  12. Posted February 8, 2017 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    I thought big companies preying on the little guys were just a stuff of children’s cartoons. Never would’ve expected so many were and still doing it in real life. Nestle did a dick move trying to take more water from the people. Not to mention the environmental damage it can cause. I say we take the fight right in front of Nestle’s doorstep and pressure them to terminate their plans.

    On another note, whoever was the person to bottle water and sell them to the general public, was a genius and a dick. He’s a genius because he knows everyone needs water. He’s a dick because everyone needs water and he decides to make a business out of a person’s needs.

  13. Sioux
    Posted February 23, 2017 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

    I am retired and have been wanting to move up north – have been looking at houses on some land in the Evart area. I don’t know anything about this area other than it is beautiful and affordable. Now I think I know why. Doing some background research, I see that Nestles has been pumping and profiting from Michigan’s clean water for a long time and wants to do even more as this post describes. It can’t get much worse under Trump – We had Obama and his gestapo EPA for 8 years and that didn’t do us much good… unless you consider the bogus AGW/Carbon war worthy of more tax dollars down the Black Hole. Trump and his EPA may actually be a blessing in empowering individual states to stop the plundering by Mega Globalist Corporations who don’t give a rats patoot about Michigan or anything else (nor do the Uniparty politicians, truth be known).
    My personal concern is that after looking at the satellite imagery of the 10 acres we wanted to buy in Evart, there is a large area that looks like a major dried up river bed. My geographic background tells me that this was not caused by natural forces. Did Nestles water drawdown affect this area we are looking at? If you were me, would you look elsewhere in Michigan for a new home? No matter what, the fight for good safe plentiful water is a planetary issue. You don’t need bottled water if you have access to good water out of your tap. Many of us don’t even here in America and dont’ even know it.

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