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State approves Nestle's water withdrawal permit

A packed public comments hearing on the recent Nestle permit.
Lindsey Smith
Michigan Radio

The Michigan DEQ has approved a permit from Nestle Waters North America to increase the amount of groundwater it pumps from its well near Evart, Michigan.

The state says Nestle has to complete a monitoring plan and submit it to the DEQ for approval. After that happens, Nestle will be authorized to pump up to 400 gallons of water per minute from its White Pine Springs well.

The permit request was highly controversial. As Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith reported,the DEQ received a unprecedented number of public comments on Nestle's proposal. 80,945 commenters were against the request. 75 were in favor.

This is a 60 percent increase in the volume extracted -- potential 60 percent increase -- and it’s just tough to take,” said Nicholas Occhipinti, government affairs director for the Michigan League of Conservation Voters. 

“Folks are struggling to get clean water in Detroit and Flint and having a lot of issues with PFAS contamination," he said. "It’s just a hard, hard road blow to take for Michiganders to see water pumped out of the watershed for other states.”

In a press release, MDEQ director Heidi Grether stated, “In full transparency, [the] majority of the public comments received were in opposition of the permit, but most of them related to issues of public policy which are not, and should not be, part of an administrative permit decision. We cannot base our decisions on public opinion because our department is required to follow the rule of law when making determinations."

The DEQ says Nestle's permit "meets the requirements for approval under Section 17 of the Michigan Safe Drinking Water Act, 1976 PA 399, as amended (Act 399), which is required to produce bottled drinking water if the water is from a new or increased large-quantity withdrawal of more than 200,000 gallons of water per day from the waters of the state."

Rebecca Williams is senior editor in the newsroom, where she edits stories and helps guide news coverage.
Before becoming the newest Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network, Cheyna Roth was an attorney. She spent her days fighting it out in court as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Ionia County. Eventually, Cheyna took her investigative and interview skills and moved on to journalism. She got her masters at Michigan State University and was a documentary filmmaker, podcaster, and freelance writer before finding her home with NPR. Very soon after joining MPRN, Cheyna started covering the 2016 presidential election, chasing after Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and all their surrogates as they duked it out for Michigan. Cheyna also focuses on the Legislature and criminal justice issues for MPRN. Cheyna is obsessively curious, a passionate storyteller, and an occasional backpacker. Follow her on Twitter at @Cheyna_R
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