Nestlé’s push to pump more water out of Michigan meets resistance

Giant sucking sound

Photo by Michael Jackman


John McLane guides his dirt-caked crew cab pickup along the dirt and asphalt roads of Osceola Township. A former surveyor who worked for the oil and natural gas industry for 30 years, he knows these back roads well enough to show where they intersect with the marshes, lakes, and streams that lead into the Chippewa and Twin creeks.

He stops every few miles or so to point out another waterway to his passenger, Peggy Case, board president of Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation. McLane joined the board of the organization to oppose food giant Nestlé’s efforts to pump more groundwater out of the county, and as he points out inconsistencies between Nestlé’s permit application and his fact-finding, you’d practically need a diamond-tipped drill to cut through his sarcasm.

He hops out of the truck on Eight Mile Road where a cross culvert pipe flows underneath into a swamp that joins the Chippewa. “We’ll each estimate how much flow there is, and then I’ll tell you what Nestlé says,” he proposes.

“See that water down there?” he says, pointing to a squashed pipe leading into the field. “What’s the flow per minute? I’ve got an idea in my mind.”

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