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Company formerly known as Nestle drops water withdrawal permit

bottle of water
Wilson Hui
Flickr / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

UPDATED: Oct 22, 2021

Blue Triton Brands, formerly known as Nestle Waters North America, has withdrawn its controversial permit allowing the company to extract more Michigan groundwater near Evart, Michigan.

The permit allowed Blue Triton Brands to increase extraction from 250 gallons of groundwater per minute to 400 from its White Pine Springs well. Instead, the company said it will increase to just 288 gallons per minute in a September 28 letter to the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy.

The permit was met with legal challenges so the company had not increased how much water it withdrew.

The company drew intense public criticism during the permit approval process in 2018. As Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith reported, ELGE received an overwhelming amount of public comments against the permit request. 80,945 commenters were against the request while only 75 were in favor.

By dropping the permit, Blue Triton Brands avoids stricter monitoring requirements. Under the permit, the company would have been required to complete a monitoring plan and submit it to EGLE.

In a written statement, the company said, "BlueTriton Brands, Inc. (“BlueTriton”) is currently able to source sufficient water from existing sources. BlueTriton will not utilize the extra capacity authorized under the approved Section 17 permit at this time. We appreciate the hard work of the Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy staff throughout the permit review process."

The company’s plan to extract up to 288 gallons of groundwater per minute does not require a new permit. The plan already passed the state’s computer model, the Water Withdrawal Assessment Tool. Extracting up to 400 gallons per minute would have expanded monitoring requirements in the White Pine Springs well.

Peggy Case, President of Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation, said she hoped their group could be a part of developing that monitoring plan. She said not requiring a new permit for the increase is a “serious issue.”

“They're ducking under a requirement to gather enough data to be able to monitor the environment,” Case said.

Although there isn’t as high of an increase without the permit, Case is concerned about any increase in the amount of water extracted by the company. She said that there is already a “significant” environmental impact. In July of 2020, the company and EGLE officials denied the group's claims that the groundwater extraction was causing creeks to dry up.

“We think that the people who are impacted, really need to have some involvement in monitoring the environment that they're living in,” Case said.

Scott Dean, a spokesman for ELGE, said the company has 18 months to install a pipe that can pump 288 gallons per minute. It cannot exceed a maximum annual withdrawal volume of 20,059,039 gallons.

This story was updated to include a statement from Blue Triton.

Sophia Kalakailo joined Michigan Radio in Sept. 2021 and is a senior at Michigan State University studying journalism and minoring in documentary production. She previously interned at Bridge Michigan and was an editor for The State News and The Eastern Echo covering a wide range of topics.
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