Photo by Emma Grossbauer
Nestle, the largest food and beverage food conglomeration in the United States, has been extracting groundwater from Michigan, and people are not happy about it.
In July of last year, there was a zoning dispute between Osceola Township and Nestle Waters North America. Nestle wanted to build a booster station (in Evart, Michigan) to pump water to their Ice Mountain bottling plant in Stanwood. Osceola Township denied Nestle’s request for a building permit due to environmental concerns.
Nestle proceeded to sue Osceola Township on the grounds that their request met zoning regulations. Osceola Township lost the lawsuit and was ordered to issue a zoning permit to Nestle.
“I had no idea this situation was happening, but I think that the people living in the town might know what’s best for the safety of the town,” said Katherine Maiville (’20).
Another issue surrounding Nestle involves their attempt to extract water from a wellhead in Osceola Township. Currently, Nestle extracts 250 gallons of water a minute from the wellhead, but they’re attempting to have that amount increased to 400 gallons a minute. Without the booster station, Nestle’s pipelines won’t be able to withstand the increased pumping.
There are negative effects on the environment with the current amount of water being extracted.
Due to the amount of water being extracted, there have been decreases in the trout population since Nestle has begun extracting water.
“[Large Corporations] tend to produce a ton of waste including wastewater, and large companies use millions of gallons of water in a short period of time,” said Hannah Flemming (’20). If Nestle continues to extract water from the wellhead in Osceola Township, the trout population will continue to decrease.
Despite the outrage from the Osceola Township population, the extraction was deemed legal by EGLE (The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy).
To combat trout populations decreasing, Nestle has submitted environmental monitoring plans at the wellhead. That being said, EGLE won’t allow the pumping capacity at the well to be increased until results from the monitoring plan have been analyzed. “Even though it is legal under the EGLE, I think that they need to test and see what some long-term causes are to be sure that it is 100% safe for the people and environment,” said Maiville.
Nestle has mentioned that they’re putting the water they’re pumping to good use. Nestle said that they have donated water to Flint during the water crisis, and “we are always prepared to provide assistance where and when it’s needed,” said Anderson-Vincent, a management spokeswoman for the Ice Mountain plant.
Although Nestle has been giving its pumped water to people that need it, they’re still selling some of their bottled water with little profit being given to the state of Michigan. For each facility that extracts water, Nestle pays a $200 paperwork fee, but that price is small compared to the issues both Detroit and Flint are having with drinkable water.
“I think [giving water to Flint] is very thoughtful, how ever it does not dismiss the fact they Nestle uses a lot of resources,” said Flemming. “I am all for philanthropy and helping out, but maybe using more water from other places would help the environment in Osceola Township.”
The trout population has been decreasing due to the amount of water being extracted, and once Nestle drains too much water from the wellhead, the population may never recover. Other places in Michigan could be affected in the same way if Nestle continues to pump water from the environment in a similar way.