MCWC prepares legal fight against DEQ, Nestlé

Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation President Peggy Case discusses Nestlé Waters North America’s permit application to increase its water withdrawal capacity to 400 gallons per minute during a press conference in January 2005 in Stanwood. The grassroots groups is looking to challenge the April 2 decision by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s approval of Nestlé’s application. (Pioneer file photo)

LANSING — The Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation is preparing a legal fight against a familiar opponent over a recently approved permit allowing increased water withdrawal rates at a spring water well in Osceola Township.

The grassroots water conservation group is preparing a Petition for a Contested Case for Permit No. 1701, issued on April 2, by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, which approved the Nestlé Waters North America (NWNA) application to increase its withdrawal rate to 400 gallons per minute at its White Pine Springs Well northwest of the City of Evart.

MCWC President Peggy Case said taking this course of action always was a possibility for the group.

“We don’t believe the permit is lawful and shouldn’t have been issued for a variety of issues,” she said. “We’re challenging that, as we have a right to, for them to stop taking water out of the basin.

“Why wouldn’t we fight this? We have been fighting Nestlé since 2000 to stop them from drawing down the streams and taking water out of the basin.”

MCWC also argues the DEQ issued the permit without the zoning issue for a proposed booster pump station being resolved between NWNA and Osceola Township. The township currently is appealing a circuit court ruling for a zoning permit to be granted.

Case explained MCWC has been focused on this since the permit became public knowledge, during the public comment portion of the application process.

“When we saw that they wanted to pump 400 gallons per minute, it sounded a lot like the Mecosta County case, in which the judge ruled that 400 gallons per minute was not sustainable,” she said. “Of course we had to get involved again. We have members who live on those creeks and in the basin and it’s an issue that affects them intimately.”

Despite the similarities of the two separate cases, Case said members are ready for a legal fight.

“We were kind of hoping the DEQ would rise to the occasion and deny the permit, considering the 80,000 people who opposed the permit and the scientific and legal documents from other organizations the DEQ should have considered,” she said. “We were kind of hopeful the DEQ would do the right thing; at least minimally, follow the correct process for granting the 250 gallons per minute beyond the 100 gallons per minute they approved fitting into the law. There were a lot of possibilities and they chose the least favorable possibility.”

Among other issues with the permit approval, a statement by Case on the group’s website

“These are not things that we started thinking about two weeks ago,” she said. “We were thinking about it the whole time, and had to look to raising the money to do this. It’s appropriate our organization do this. Our organization is the most obvious to be doing this. We are not by ourselves, we have other groups who are cheering us on.”

In response to the pending legal challenge, a statement from Arlene Anderson-Vincent, natural resource manager at Ice Mountain, said NWNA shares the deep commitment of many of these organizations to the state, people and natural resources.

“The facts of the situation are this: The MDEQ carefully reviewed and considered our application, in what it has called its most thorough review ever,” she said. “Moreover, the MDEQ invested significant time to develop the 58-page recommendation memo, which includes 22 conditions for the permit.”

Anderson-Vincent added NWNA has the highest degree of confidence in the more than 16 years of scientific data supporting its application, and in the professional scientists who collect and evaluate the data for the state.

“Nestlé Waters has always been and will continue to be a strong supporter of laws that protect the environment, and we continue to be committed to ensuring the sustainability of Michigan’s natural resources,” she said.

Anderson-Vincent added NWNA supports conversations about how to best promote environmental sustainability and about the responsible use of water in our communities.

“As always, we welcome the opportunity to have constructive, fact-based dialogue on these topics,” she said. “We have made a long-term investment in Michigan, and we take great care to operate in a responsible and sustainable way to preserve and protect our shared water resources and the surrounding environment for generations to come.”

avatar

Posted by Brandon Fountain

Leave a Reply