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.
“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 email@example.com. Here is a copy of an email you can send her:
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
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.