OSCEOLA TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A Northern Michigan open-house forum aimed to curb concerns over a bottled-water company’s plan to dramatically increase its groundwater pumping.
Nestle Waters North America held the open house Thursday at the Osceola Township Hall to listen to and answer questions from area residents concerned about the proposal.
The company announced last month a $36 million expansion of its Ice Mountain plant in Mecosta County. As part of the expansion, the company is asking to increase the capacity of water they’re allowed to pull from its White Pines Springs site in Osceola County from 250 gallons to 400 gallons per minute.
While the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality approved the current 250 GPM in January 2016 from the previous 100 GPM capacity, the 2015 average was 99 GPM. Nestle has not published the 2016 average yet.
Township resident Jim Rohen said the move from 100 GPM to 250 GPM last year was not something discussed publicly and a big motivator for why he attended Thursday’s open house.
“I think they’ve been pretty honest with me. I feel better than when I came earlier. I’m glad they’re doing it this time. They didn’t do it last time. I wasn’t very happy when they went from 100 gallons then all of a sudden they’re pumping 250 and we didn’t have any of this. They just granted the permit and kept on going without any input from anybody, but now they have some interaction so that will make it a lot better,” Rohen told 24 Hour News 8.
NWNM told 24 Hour News 8 they’ve researched the current expansion, want to be transparent with the community and contend the impact on the area would be minimal.
“We have an extensive monitoring program. We have 100 monitoring locations. Our due diligence — the science put out up front — we’re completely confident that this increase can sustain the increase,” NWNM Natural Resource Manager Arlene Anderson-Vincent told 24 Hour News 8.
The township relies on well water and most of the concerns expressed at the open house were about the potential impact the increase could have on residential well supplies.
“If my well dries up, that ain’t free for me and I’m just a country person. I already know what a 61 foot well costs. I can’t afford to go a whole lot deeper not in this day and age,” resident Denise Langworthy told 24 Hour News 8.
Members of the Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation group told 24 Hour News 8 in a November interview the plan is excessive and favors corporate interests over public ones.
The MDEQ is giving the public until March 3 to comment on the proposal before making a final decision.
Written comments can be submitted by email to email@example.com or by mail to:
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality
Office of Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance
P.O. Box 30241
Lansing, MI 48909-7741