Tag: White Pine Springs

Evart’s White Pine Springs Takes Center Stage in North America’s Water Wars

Bottled water

Evart is taking center stage in North America’s “water wars” as local advocates demand that Nestlé Waters North America revert its claimed rights to the White Pine Springs back to the public trust. These springs, a source for Ice Mountain’s bottled water brand, have long been subject to community opposition due to the company’s legacy of broken promises, ecological harm, and removal of our most precious public resource: our water.

Nestlé Waters’ announcement last summer that it is considering the sale of its bulk bottled water business — including regional name brands Pure Life, Poland Spring, Arrowhead, Zephyrhills, and Ice Mountain — follows a string of controversies over the company’s environmental and community impacts in the United States and Canada that have spurred protests, lawsuits, and legislative proposals. Indeed, Nestlé CEO Mark Schneider admitted to The New York Times in June that ‘environmental concerns’ had hurt sales. Recent developments suggest the company is in the process of accelerating the sale to the tune of $5 billion.

Now, more than a dozen organizations in the United States, Canada and Switzerland, led by grassroots groups in communities that have been fighting Nestlé’s water extraction for years, have written to Nestlé CEO Ulf Mark Schneider to demand that the company return a series of particularly controversial water bottling operations to the public prior to any sale.

The case in White Pine Springs is notable since Nestlé is currently applying to increase its water withdrawals to 400 gallons per minute despite the company’s intent to sell its Ice Mountain brand. While a final permitting decision rests with the state’s environmental regulator, EGLE, the move is bitterly opposed by local residents. Indeed, local groups have filed a complaint asking the state’s Attorney General, Dana Nessel, to address the impairment of two streams by Nestlé’s current water withdrawals.

The State has always relied solely on Nestlé generated data to claim there has been no harm to local streams and lakes. Residents know better and have documented harms for many years, says Peggy Case, president of Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation (MCWC). With record high water levels throughout the state, the two affected creeks in Evart are way below the level to support a once healthy trout population and mudflats are increasing. The damage is similar to what was experienced in Mecosta County when Nestlé began pumping there. A lawsuit filed in 2000 resulted in a court precedent that forced Nestlé to reduce pumping. Yet the multinational corporation has been fighting tooth and nail to get a permit for the exact same amount in Evart. To date, the State still takes Nestle’s position and refuses to investigate the claims of the citizens affected.

The letter to the Nestlé CEO marks the launch of a global campaign — Nestlé’s Troubled Waters — to pressure the company, potential buyers, regulators and lawmakers to see the ownership of these water sources revert to public ownership.

  • In the letter, local advocates join groups from the U.S., Canada and Switzerland in calling on the world’s largest water bottler to divest itself of Evart’s White Pine Springs as well as other controversial water sources in Colorado; Florida, California and Ontario, Canada, prior to any sale.
  • Nestlé’s decision about a sale comes at a time when record wildfires, long-term drought conditions and the Coronavirus pandemic are elevating the importance of access to clean, affordable local water sources.
  • Nestlé’s practices have previously led to legislative proposals in Ontario, Michigan and Washington to restrict privatized water bottling.

The letter precedes several important permit-related developments for Nestlé, which despite its sale effort is moving ahead on permit renewals in multiple states:

  • A hearing this week before Chaffee County, Colorado Commissioners over Nestlé’s request for a 10-year extension of its permit to draw water from Ruby Mountain Springs, despite significant public concern over a series of unfulfilled promises from the company’s first, now expired, permit;
  • In Florida, the Suwannee Water Management District will soon review Nestlé’s effort to increase its water take from Ginnie Springs to almost 1 million gallons per day, though Nestlé’s name is not on the permit application — it buys water from the permittee — despite threatening the flow of the endangered Santa Fe River’s iconic freshwater springs.
  • In California, the state continues to await a final Report of Investigation from the State Water Resources Control Board regarding its review of Nestlé’s shaky claim to water rights in the San Bernardino National Forest. The preliminary report found Nestlé had far overstated its rights for years.

Watch the short documentary ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ A Tale of Two Cities tells the story of citizens from two very different Michigan communities—small-town Evart and industrial Flint—that have found their futures inextricably linked by a threat to the one thing that all life requires: water.


Spokespersons available for interview:

    Michigan Officials Direct Nestlé to Reexamine Impact to Freshwater Resources of Increased Pumping Proposal

    Acting in part on scientific evidence developed and submitted by FLOW and our expert team, the Michigan Department of Environmental has directed Swiss water-bottling giant Nestlé to reassess the likely impact on local wetlands, streams, and natural springs of its application to dramatically increase water extraction to 210 million gallons a year near Evart, northeast of Big Rapids. 

    The state action is an important step forward in protecting vulnerable water resources, as Nestlé Ice Mountain seeks a state permit to more than double its spring water withdrawal from the current rate of 150 gallons-per-minute (gpm) to 400 gpm, or as much as 576,000 gallons-per-day, from its White Pine Springs well No. 101 in the headwaters of Chippewa and Twin creeks in Osceola County.

    “Staff have endeavored to complete their review with the information provided and, in light of input from Nestlé’s experts, have concluded that the information, analysis, data, and explanation provided does not yet provide the DEQ with a reasonable basis to make the determination if the requirements” in the law will be met, James Gamble of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality wrote the company on June 21.

    The DEQ requested that Nestlé provide, among other things, a revised groundwater model using improved methods to evaluate the interaction between the streams, aquifers, and wetlands and detailed water budget analyses – including sources of water and assumptions – during wet, normal and dry years.

    “It shows that science and law still matter and must come before corporate schemes to turn the public’s water into a private commodity,” said Jim Olson, FLOW’s president and founder, who as a Traverse City environmental attorney previously fought Nestlé in court on behalf of the Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation. “The DEQ should be commended for upholding the law to its highest standard, which is to require evidence of actual impact before approving the permit.”

    It is the second time the DEQ has sought more information on Nestlé's July 2016 permit application for the highly controversial proposal, which is part of the company’s $36 million planned expansion of its Ice Mountain bottling plant in Stanwood. Hundreds of people in April attended a state public hearing to oppose to permit, and tens of thousands submitted public comments in opposition.

    The MDEQ is reviewing Nestle's application under Section 17 of the Michigan Safe Drinking Water Act, a regulation specific to Michigan water bottlers developed in response to environmental concerns sparked by Nestle's original Sanctuary Springs wellfield. It's the first Section 17 application to be reviewed since the law passed. The statute is tie-barred with the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, which states that groundwater pumping must have no "individual or cumulative adverse resource impacts."

    In reviewing Nestlé's application this spring, FLOW requested that a team of scientists – Dave Hyndman, PhD, an expert in hydrogeology, and Mark Luttenton, PhD, with expertise in stream and wetlands – review the Nestlé application. 

    Dr. Hyndman’s evaluation found that Nestlé’s “application does not fully evaluate the existing hydrologic, hydrogeological, or other physical and environmental conditions because: (1) Data collected between 2001 and the onset of pumping in 2009 do not appear to be used or evaluated; (2) The seven or eight years of data on the effects of pumping at 150 gpm when pumping started in 2009 have not been used or evaluated.”

    Dr. Luttenton found that the information submitted and evaluated is insufficient for the MDEQ to make a determination of effects, impacts, harms, and impairment of Nestle’s proposal, including likely impacts on:

    -Fish species
    -Invertebrate communities
    -Existing physical conditions, including upstream or in surrounding seeps and unnamed small creeks
    -Wetlands and plant species

    “Based on my analysis to date, my opinion is that the water withdrawal by Nestlé’s [proposal] will, or is very likely to cause environmental impacts to the surface water resources in the region,” Dr. Luttenton concluded. “In addition, my opinion is that during low flow and low water level conditions, there is inadequate water in the Chippewa Creek, Twin Creek, and other surface water features, to prevent probable impairment, degradation, or harm to the aquatic and ecological system, including fish and fish habitat.”

    Nestlé resistance in the Detroit Metro Times

    Nestlé has been aiming to pump more water out of Michigan.  Near Evart, the company is attempting to expand and greatly increase the withdrawal amount to 400 gallons per minute, which equates to 576,000 gallons per day.Michael Jackman, from the Detroit Metro Times, writes that there may be “rough water ahead” for Nestlé. Many people are unhappy with their actions. Read more here.