In Official Comments, Group Calls Swiss Giant’s Proposal Flimsy on Facts, Rich in Risks
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE April 21, 2017
Contact: James Olson, Legal Advisor Office: (231) 944-1568
FLOW (For Love of Water) Cell: (231) 499-8831
TRAVERSE CITY, MI – Nestlé Corporation’s bid to massively accelerate its drawdown of groundwater in Osceola County for sale as bottled water falls far short of the bar set by Michigan water law, and must be denied, FLOW said today.
In official independent scientific and legal comments as the state today closes its public comment period, FLOW said the permit application submitted by the world’s largest bottled water company lacks key information legally required by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to approve the request. Impartial scientific analysis of a complete application likely would show significant harm to natural resources, according to a review of Nestlé’s submission by scientists hired by FLOW.
“The more deeply you look at this application, the more superficial it proves to be,” said James Olson, founder of FLOW, a Traverse City-based water law and policy center dedicated to upholding the public’s rights to use and benefit from the Great Lakes and its tributaries. “Nestlé has self-servingly offered more baseless assumptions than substance in its application. They’ve put clay material to minimize effects without finding out if it’s really there. They’ve put 14 inches into their groundwater model, when it’s probably closer to 9 inches.”
Nestlé Ice Mountain is seeking a state permit to increase its spring water withdrawal from 150 to 400 gallons-per-minute (gpm), or as much as 576,000 gallons-per-day, from a well in the headwaters of Chippewa and Twin creeks in Osceola County, threatening public resources in the Muskegon River watershed.
“While Flint residents continue to be deprived of safe public drinking water and struggle to pay $200 a month for their home and health, the state is contemplating the giveaway to Nestlé of 200 million gallons of groundwater a year in exchange for a $200 state filing fee,” said Olson. “State regulators are required under public trust law to protect the public’s water resources for sustainable use by the public, not give it away to a private corporation for resale back to the public to which it belongs.”
FLOW legal and scientific team found that Nestlé’s application:
- Fails to fully evaluate existing conditions. Data collected between 2001 and the onset of pumping in 2009 were not evaluated, nor were the seven years of data gathered since pumping at 150 gpm began. The data provided are insufficient for the public or the DEQ to fully assess the impacts of either past pumping or to provide an adequate baseline for identification of future harm to natural resources.
- Lacks adequate information about the predicted effects of their requested pumping. The validity of the groundwater model predictions of the pre-pumping conditions of the system is not adequately established, nor are the predictions of effects of existing pumping within the system adequately established.
- Neglects to consider, or provide a reasonable basis to determine, the individual and cumulative harm from pumping. The application does not address the cumulative effects of pumping at the proposed 400 gpm rate, but rather solely discusses the effects of the increase in pumping from 150 to 400 gpm.
Because of these gaps, the application skirts potentially significant environmental harm, with Nestlé failing to report:
- Cumulative reductions of stream flows, which would exceed 15 percent in several locations, according to FLOW’s analysis.
- Significantly reduced, seasonal wetland flooding that likely would occur and that is essential to the proper function of the natural system.
- Increased harm to natural resources during years of low precipitation.
“If Michigan’s water withdrawal law has any meaning, the DEQ must deny the application,” Olson said.
The DEQ will close the public comment period at 5 p.m. on April 21. Written comments before the deadline can be emailed to [email protected] or mailed to: MDEQ, Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance Division, Environmental Health Section, P.O. Box 30421, Lansing, Michigan, 48909-7741.
Nestlé’s application, supporting data and documents are posted on the DEQ website: http://www.michigan.gov/deq/0,4561,7-135-3313-399187–,00.html
To learn more about FLOW’s efforts to challenge the Nestlé permit and protect the Great Lakes and Michigan’s groundwater, visit our website at www.FLOWforWater.org.
To read our Letter and Expert Report to the DEQ on Nestlé’s application, please click here.