Activists put pressure on Nestle’s water operations

Michigan

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — There’s an effort underway to take back the pumping site in Osceola County where Nestle draws groundwater for Ice Mountain bottles.

Earlier this year, the company’s CEO shared the company is considering selling most of its bottled water operations in the U.S. and Canada. In response, several organizations that have long fought the company over its business practices sent a letter requesting Nestle divest from certain operations in the U.S. and Canada before any potential sale. 

“Michigan is literally giving away our water for free,” For the Love of Water Executive Director Liz Kirkwood told News 8 Monday. “It is imperative that our states and that our nation claim these public waters for the people and not for profit.”

She and Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation President Peggy Case are the two representatives from Michigan signed on to the Oct. 19 letter. 

“Nestle has a reputation all over the world of causing problems. We don’t expect that it’s going to be a whole lot better if another company takes over the same operation. Mostly we think Nestle owes it to all of us for years and years of destruction and bad behavior to return whatever resources they think they have to us,” Case explained. 

In acknowledging discussion of a sale, the letter reads in part, “The company’s proclaimed lofty commitments to these communities during permitting processes, including local hiring clauses and offers of charitable funds, have gone unfulfilled. The environmental impacts of the plastic bottles you sell have become a global crisis. Yet often the gravest concern raised by these communities is the impact your water removal has on the depletion of local aquifers, particularly during drought conditions, impacting local residents and ecosystems alike.”

It goes on to request, “We therefore believe it is Nestlé’s minimal responsibility — to the communities and the environment that have sustained your business — to divest these assets prior to any sale of your bulk bottled water brands.”

The assets specified include permits in California, Colorado, Florida and Ontario, in addition to the one in Michigan’s Evart area.

News 8 has followed developments involving Nestle’s Osceola Township pumping for years. Most recently, a legal win put the company one step closer to increasing its pumping rate to 400 gallons of water per minute, despite being previously denied the infrastructure permit necessary to support the increase. The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy will make the final call on whether or not Nestle is approved for the new pumping rate. Currently, the company pumps 250 gallons per minute. 

In July, MCWC lodged a complaint against the company with the Michigan Attorney General’s Office, alleging destruction of natural resources due to its pumping operations.

In a Monday statement to News8, the Attorney General’s Office said it was “not aware of any legal complaint” and was not investigating Nestle.

“However, Attorney General Nessel has expressed concerns in the past with the state’s current regulatory structure governing water withdrawals and believes a thorough review and improvement to that structure is long overdue,” the statement continued. “The Michigan Legislature is the appropriate body to update those regulations, and we call upon lawmakers to take action to prevent private parties from profiting off our shared water resources and better protect those assets.”

In response to the recent letter, a spokesperson for Nestle Waters North American wrote: 

“Nestlé Waters North America is proud to be part of the communities in which we operate, including in Mecosta and Osceola Counties in Michigan. We have a long history of supporting communities such as Evart as an employer, a contributor to local organizations and by maintaining open and transparent communications. Our shared commitment to the sustainability of water resources is grounded in science and guides our everyday decisions and actions.”

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