May 31, 2018
Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation filed a Petition for Contested Case
Thursday in opposition to the Michigan DEQ decision to issue Permit No. 1701,
which was granted to Nestle Waters North America in April and would allow the
company to increase its water withdrawal at the White Pine Springs Well (PW-
101) in Osceola County, Michigan to 400 gallons per minute (gpm).
MCWC contends that in granting the permit the DEQ violated portions of Section
17 of the Safe Drinking Water Act (MCL 325.1017) and Part 327 of the Natural
Resources and Environmental Protection Act. (MCL 324.32723). These
violations are spelled out in the Petition in detail, but in layperson’s terms it can
simply be said that the DEQ failed to follow Michigan law.
When the DEQ allowed Nestle to withdraw water from PW-101 in 2009 and again
in 2015 at a total of 250 gpm the DEQ failed to properly utilize the 2008 statutes
cited above, and this most recent decision to grant Permit 1701 also fails to
compel Nestle’s compliance with Section 17 and Part 327. In all three cases, the
DEQ failed to follow the correct process as clearly set out in Michigan law.
For example, after repeated requests to Nestle, the DEQ never obtained the
required data on presently existing environment, hydrological and
hydrogeological conditions at the site. This failure means that an evaluation of
the actual environmental impact of pumping at Nestle’s requested rate of 400
gpm prior to issuing the permit isn’t possible, because the required data was not
provided by the Permit Applicant Nestle. In addition, although data from MCWC’s
own citizen scientists was requested by the DEQ and submitted by MCWC, as
well as other data sets and analyses submitted by experts working in conjunction
with FLOW For Love of Water, that data and those analyses were not given the
legally required consideration by the DEQ. In short, the law was bent to allow the
permit to go forward, so MCWC insists that the decision must be reversed.
This petition goes to an administrative proceeding with the Michigan
Administrative Hearing System which will be heard by an Administrative Law
Judge at the DEQ. If the DEQ refuses to withdraw the improperly granted permit,
there will eventually be a trial where MCWC will present experts and witnesses
demonstrating the DEQ and Nestle’s failure to follow the law. As the permitee,
Nestle is nearly certain to intervene in the administrative proceedings so that it
can state its position. The proceedings are likely to take several months prior to
reaching a conclusion, and given the stakes involved, an appeal by one or more
parties is possible.
We ask all our supporters to stay informed on the issues through our website
saveMIwater.org. We anticipate that those organizations and individuals who
work as defenders of Michigan’s water commons will assist us in paying the bills
for this contested permit. It isn’t cheap, but it is necessary. The State must not
get away with ignoring its public trust responsibilities and illegally granting Nestle
the water of the commons to convert to private profit at the expense of our
environment and our use. Over 80,000 people already expressed their opposition
and were ignored. Let us hope the DEQ judge will not ignore the provisions of
Peggy Case for the Board of Directors of MCWC
View the petition we filed with MDEQ here.
More on MCWC and Nestle here.
Also published on Medium.