80,945 Nays, 75 Yeas, Yet Michigan OKs Nestle Water Plan

Despite public opposition, the plan complies with the law, agency finds
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 4, 2018 11:40 AM CDT
80,945 Nays, 75 Yeas, Yet Michigan OKs Nestle Water Plan
People cheer wearing "Flint Lives Matter" T-shirts during a public hearing on April 12, 2017, in Big Rapids, Mich., on a Nestle Waters North America proposal to boost the volume of groundwater it pumps for bottling.   (Neil Blake/The Grand Rapids Press via AP)

Michigan has given the OK to Nestle's controversial request to increase the amount of water it pumps from the state—despite the fact that a record number of public comments were made on the matter, and 80,945 of those comments were against the plan. Just 75 were in favor. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality found that the plan, which will see Nestle pumping up to 400 gallons of water per minute from the White Pine Springs well in the Great Lakes basin instead of the 250 gallons per minute it currently extracts, complied with legal standards, NPR reports. Most of the public comments opposing the plan "related to issues of public policy which are not, and should not be, part of an administrative permit decision," the director of the agency said when approving Nestle's permit.

Water is a particularly tender subject in Michigan, where Detroit once shut off water to thousands of customers who were behind on paying their water bills—and where the water in Flint, four years later, still isn't safe to drink. Nestle extracts the water to bottle it for sale under its Ice Mountain label, and all it costs the company is a $200-per-year permit from the DEQ—an amount that won't change under the new permit, the Detroit Free Press reports. Per a Michigan Radio journalist, the top three themes of public comments opposing Nestle's plan were "corporate greed versus people and the environment," "water is not for profit," and "worries about privatizing water." The policy director for the Michigan Environmental Council says that while the new permit includes additional monitoring and oversight requirements, it does not include any "improvement projects brought to the table by Nestle." (More Nestle stories.)

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