While the good people of Flint still await safe drinking water following the horrible decision to change the city’s water source, our un-illustrious state leaders appear to be about to commit yet another environmental blunder that further tarnishes their role as stewards of Michigan’s sacred natural resources.
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) is seriously considering approval of a request by NWNA (Nestle Water of North America) to withdraw more than 130,000,000 gallons of groundwater a year so it can be bottled and sold for profit. Yes folks, you read the number correctly, 130 million gallons per year – water that would have been destined for private wells in the vicinity of the Osceola Township site, the nearby Muskegon River, and eventually Lake Michigan. What’s worse is this is on top of the more than 4 billion gallons of groundwater withdrawn by Nestle since 2001 in the same watershed using three existing wells.
And exactly how much does our lovely state intend to charge Nestle for the benefit of using the public’s fresh groundwater? Exactly $200 per year per well. In the case of this new well, that equates to 0.00000154 cents per gallon or in other words, Nestle is allowed to withdraw 650,000 gallons of water for each dollar in permit fee! That is a ridiculously low cost that is essentially a corporate welfare giveaway program.
Even more frustrating is the state seems to just accept the report that the applicant’s consultant prepared verbatim. It indicates that such a withdrawal would have no adverse impacts on neighboring wells or anything else. The problem is, nobody at the state seems to be verifying the accuracy of the findings. At one point, the state had even drawn up a permit for issuance…at least until news got out of the proposed project.
Other concerns with the submitted report, include, but not limited to:
- There is not a single reference to the potential impacts climate change may have on the proposed groundwater withdrawal.
- Neither the study, nor the proposal make any adjustments for future changes in weather, rainfall amounts, or groundwater movement. The report only states the following vague commitment: “NWNA commits through this application to undertake activities, if needed, to address unexpected hydrological impacts of this proposed withdrawal.”
- No contingency plans have been submitted.
- No emergency fund has been proposed.
- There’s no pro-rated fee for using the public’s groundwater as a for-profit commodity nor is there any attempt to require a portion of the benefits the applicant receives being directed towards helping the folks in Flint.
- The report does not address the possibility of subleasing the well to other firms nor the possibility of a buy-out or merger.
- The initial model projection showed this added withdrawal of groundwater failing (emphasis added). Why wasn’t that enough to deny the request outright?
To this point it appears the state is turning a blind eye to any potential pitfalls related to another huge withdrawal of groundwater in close proximity to three existing wells. For those of us residing in Michigan, such a cavalier approach is becoming far too familiar and reeks of the bad decisions made regarding Flint and the foot-dragging when it comes to shutting down the twin Line 5 pipeline submerged beneath the Straits of Mackinac. In the end these issues beg the all-important question:
“At what point is the public trust of protecting our precious waters going to be fulfilled by our elected and appointed leaders?”
At the moment, fat corporate profits seem to be more important in Lansing.
If the immense size of this groundwater withdrawal request troubles you or the complete lack of an verifiable, independent analysis of the project frustrates you, please consider submitting written comments to the MDEQ before March 3, 2017, at the following:
Additional details can also be found at flowforwater.org/not-fast-nestle/
Thank you. Peace.