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Nestle hosts public forum on plan to pump more groundwater in W Mich.

Bottles of water
Flickr user Daniel Orth
Nestle uses Michigan groundwater for its Ice Mountain bottled water brand.

Nestle Waters North America is hosting public meetings to answer questions about the bottled-water manufacturer's plan to pump more groundwater at one of its wells in Michigan.

Nestle wants to increase pumping at one of its wells in Osceola County. Right now Nestle can pump 250 gallons per minute. It wants to start pumping 400 gallons per minute to supply groundwater for its Ice Mountain Bottled Water Brand.

"Bottled water is growing,” said Nestle Natural Resources Manager Arlene Anderson-Vincent. “And so (the pumping increase) is to support future growth, and also to allow us to have a balance so we aren't over-reliant on any one of our sources."  

The first public meeting was Jan. 5 at Osceola Township Hall, in Evart Michigan. A second meeting is planned on Jan. 10 in Mecosta County.

Anderson-Vincent says independently contracted scientists studied the environment to ensure Nestle’s pumping is “sustainable.”

“We're very confident in the science,” Anderson-Vincent said. “You know we're a very small water user in the state of Michigan.”

The well in question, White Pine Springs No. 101, had an average pumping rate of 99 gallons per minute in 2015, according to Anderson-Vincent.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is accepting public comment on the proposed pumping increase until March. There will also be a public hearing before the department issues a final decision on the permit request.

DEQ spokesman Mike Shore says the department had received nearly 14,000 public comments by the end of 2016. 

Anderson-Vincent says Nestle has been monitoring the environmental impact of its wells more than 16 years, watching to be sure changes in water levels don’t change beyond the “natural variability” of the water levels.

However, environmental groups still have concerns. MLive reports Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation had members in attendance during the public meeting Jan. 5 in Evart, MI.

Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation previously previously reached a lawsuit settlement with nestle that capped water withdrawal rates in Mecosta County in 2009.

In a statement, Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation Vice President Jeff Ostahowski said the group is "in fact-finding and research mode," with regard to Nestle's proposed water withdrawal increase in Osceola county.

“Michigan water policies are in serious need of updating if Michigan is going to use and conserve its water resources wisely… ," Ostahowski's statement read. "MCWC believe that serious and significant environmental damage may have already occurred on the upper reaches of both Twin and Chippewa Creeks in Evart.”

Yet Anderson-Vincent says Nestle's years of ongoing monitoring has no evidence of harmful environmental impact due water withdrawal.  

James Clift, policy director of the Michigan Environmental Council, says the cumulative effect of large-capacity water withdrawal on Michigan’s environment should be considered, even when individual operations may not show evidence of being harmful to the environment.

According to Clift, there have been more than 3,000 permit requests for large-capacity water withdrawal in the past decade, predominately for agricultural use.

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