Michigan DEQ allows Nestlé to pump 400 gallons water/minute despite opposition to permit


OSCEOLA COUNTY, Mich. (WPBN/WGTU) - Nestlé will be allowed to increase the amount of water it withdraws from the White Pine Springs well near Evart.

On Monday, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality granted Nestlé Waters North America a permit to increase its groundwater withdrawal for bottled drinking water.

It can now pump 400 gallons of water a minute, up from 250 gallons a minute.

“The scope and detail of the department’s review of the Nestlé permit application represents the most extensive analysis of any water withdrawal in Michigan history,” said C. Heidi Grether, director of MDEQ. “We are hopeful that whether residents agree with the Nestlé permitting decision or not, they will acknowledge and respect the work that MDEQ staff did to thoroughly and conscientiously apply the law in reviewing the permit.”

The MDEQ determined the application meets the requirements of the Michigan Safe Drinking Water Act, which is required to produce bottled drinking water if the water is from a new or increased quantity withdrawal of more than 200,000 gallons of water a day.

“In full transparency, the majority of the public comments received were in opposition of the permit, but most of them related to issues of public policy which are not, and should not be, part of an administrative permit decision. We cannot base our decisions on public opinion because our department is required to follow the rule of law when making determinations,” Grether added.

Nestlé's Ice Mountain Natural Spring Water natural resource manager Arlene Anderson-Vincent has since released a statement:

"We have received a copy of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality's permit decision authorizing our requested withdrawal. We will need time to carefully review the specifics but will comply with all permit requirements. We appreciate the MDEQ's careful review and consideration of our application, in what it has called its most thorough review ever, and we look forward to providing them with the monitoring plans as required."

Nestlé has also made attempts to add a booster pump station in Osceola Township, something that would help pump the increased amount of groundwater.

The Osceola Township Board denied Nestlé a zoning permit that would allow the company to build the booster station. The zoning dispute is separate from the DEQ’s permit now issued.

In January, a circuit judge ruled that the township must issue the permit to Nestlé to build the booster station, however, township officials have since appealed that decision.

“The township would love to work with Nestlé to find another location to put the booster station,” said Bill Fahey, an attorney for the township. “We think that if it’s located on a piece of commercial property would be best, but locating it where they want to put it is problematic for us.”

Activists working to protect clean water in the Great Lakes region say allowing the company to pump more fresh water from the area will have major impacts on the surrounding environment.

“What happens is the cone of depression will cause the drying up of the streams, the headwaters, the surrounding wetlands,” said Liz Kirkwood, executive director of For the Love of Water (FLOW). “Even 250 gallons per minute will result in significant environmental damage to this ecology.”

Right now, Nestlé has to prepare a monitoring plan and submit it to the MDEQ for consideration and approval. Once the plan is in place and baseline data is collected, Nestlé will be able to start withdrawing more water.

Nestlé submitted its permit application in July 2016. To view the permit, click here.

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