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Nestle will more than double the amount of water it draws for bottling and selling to consumers around the world if Nestle's current application to expand it's water drawing operations is approved. This would bring the amount of water it withdraws from the Osceola County aquifer in question from 300,000 gal / day to more than 600,000 gal / day. (that's an increase of over 250 gal / second!  Imagine trying to fit that in your pantry!)

Expanding demand for bottled water world wide, coupled with a contaminate issue at one of the corporation's municipal wells seem to be behind Nestle's request.

To date, Nestle has taken over 1 BILLION gallons of water from the Great Lakes Basin and paid Michigan ZERO dollars to do so. The new application still allows the company to draw & sell Michigan waters tax & royalty free but will impose an annual administrative fee of just $200.

"The juxtaposition is pretty stark," said Liz Kirkwood, director of the Traverse City nonprofit environmental advocacy group FLOW (For Love of Water).

"It's ironic that the state of Michigan won't pay for bottled water and 100 miles away they are giving away Pure Michigan water for $200 a year at the wellhead."

- Find this quote and more information on why getting Nestle to pay more is tricky in this great article from Mlive.


Importantly, environmental groups such as Clean Water Action maintain that Nestle has failed to provide adequate information in their proposal, evaluating the increased water withdrawal on wetlands, plants & animal life and have cited concerns over seemingly shady DEQ practices, such as allowing Nestle to routinely withdraw water beyond their permit capacity and publishing it's "public notice" regarding the request in a way that seemed likely to ensure that few Michigan residents would notice or comment. Opponents maintain that an independent & comprehensive study of environmental impacts should be completed before the request is approved. Nestle's own proposal states that it expects 5 wetland areas to be effected by a drop in local water levels, but maintains that the company does not expect adverse ecological effects in those areas. The report additionally states the company expects that lower water levels may adversely effect up to 45 wells owned by Michigan residents.

Although the Water Resources Division of the MI Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has already signed off on the request, citizen outcry has led to the now third extension of the public comment period for this issue. Ultimately, Nestle's request must be approved by the DEQ's Office of Drinking Water & Municipal Assistance per the Michigan Safe Water Drinking Act if the project is to move forward. Computerized environmental impact assessment tools run by the Water Resources Division rated the project with an environmental grade of 'D', the lowest possible rating the model provides. A 'D' rating means the project is likely to have a large environmental impact, however WRD staffers overrode the computer model's findings and approved the project after conducting an on site review - ultimately deciding to give the project an 'A' grade, meaning least likely to cause environmental impact, instead.  WRD staff maintains that it is not uncommon for staff to overrule computer model findings on project requests.
 
Comments can be emailed to  deq-eh@michigan.gov  and must be received by the new April 21st deadline. The Sierra Club has made a sample comment letter available for residents to use when submitting their responses.