Conservation Groups Fight Back Against "Water Grab"
LANSING, Mich. – Michiganders have just a few days left to let state officials know how they feel about the planned expansion of a bottled-water operation that some are calling a betrayal of the state's residents and resources.
Swiss bottled water giant Nestle has asked the state for permission to increase the amount of groundwater it pumps from 150 to 400 gallons-per-minute at its production wells north of Evart, in exchange for a business fee of just $200 per year.
Jeff Ostahowski, the vice president of the group, Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation, says he finds the proposal outrageous, given the Flint water crisis and the water shut-offs many Detroiters have experienced.
"Having people disconnected from water for small amounts of money and having the world's greatest water bottler receive so much for so little points to a real inequity in our situation," he said.
Michigan's Department of Environmental Quality issued Nestle Water North America its first permit to extract state water for profit in 2000. Since then, the company has extracted millions of gallons of water it bottles and sells for as much as two dollars a bottle. The DEQ is accepting public comment on the new proposal through this Friday.
While the aquifer in question is located in Osceola County, Ostahowski says the idea of basically giving away the state's water should concern all Michiganders who want to preserve the Great Lakes State way of life.
"When we don't allow our best streams to process naturally through the ecosystem, we can't help but make a mark on the quality of certainly the Muskegon River, and eventually Lake Michigan," he explained.
Tuesday, Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation and other concerned groups plan to deliver more than 345,000 petitions to the DEQ calling for the agency to cancel the plan with Nestle.