Citizens, activists voice concerns over Nestlé permit
BIG RAPIDS — After a more than 200-mile trip to Ferris State University, Detroiter Nicole Hill didn't mince words.
Speaking during an April 12 Michigan Department of Environmental Quality's public hearing on Nestlé Waters North America's permit application to increase its water pumping withdrawal capacity from 150 gallons per minute to 400 gpm at its production well in Osceola Township, Hill equated the withdrawal to "raping the environment."
"Nestlé would literally and figuratively be sucking Michigan dry," she said. "They would be the oppressor. They're taking the water and still charging us for it. That's like the slave paying the slave master to still be the slave."
During a break in the hearing DEQ officials expected to last past midnight, Hill said she has survived her water being shut off in Detroit.
"They would be paying $200 a year while, on a good month with everything in place, that's what I pay," she said. "They're trying to make the Great Lakes into the Great Desert," she said.
Hill's comments to MDEQ officials Bryce Feighner and Phil Roycraft mirrored dozens in the audience during Tuesday's hearing, receiving applause, shouts of support and hugs.
Meanwhile, those who spoke in favor of Nestlé's permit or the company in general, were treated to boos and off-color remarks.
Jim Sandy, president of the Mecosta County Development Corporation, highlighted Nestlé's economic impact on the area already.
"For the past 16 years this company has been the leader in creating the kind of jobs that support a family and a household in this community," he said. "In addition, it has produced millions of dollars in taxes, supported community organizations and charitable causes, promoted environmental education in school and many additional civic activities."
"As an organization, we realize a healthy economy creates quality jobs and opportunities for citizens in this area," he said. "For those who are not from around here, Mecosta, Lake and Osceola make up a three-county region that ranks among the poorest in the state."
During her three minutes of allotted time, Karina Petri, of Project Flint, said jobs do not make up for Nestlé's application which will only increase the privatization of water.
"The gentleman spoke that this corporation that we're fighting against, that is greed hungry and is only looking after their own pocket books and do not care about the health of the people, creates jobs," she said. "These people employed by the corporation may not understand the significance of the privatization of water will have and has had already, and it is already happening in the City of Flint. If you want to talk about jobs, let's dig up those pipes and get new ones to get them water.
"This is a global issue," she added. "What happened in Flint and will certainly happen our nation, run by greedy wickedness, and will negatively affect all of us."
Greg Fox, a hydrogeologist with Nestlé for 15 years, said the permit should be approved.
"I'm proud of the fact that at Ice Mountain is able to do extensive monitoring and extensive studies on our water supplies to ensure sure they're operated sustainably," he said, after being interrupted several times. "The permit is based on legislation, and the legislation is based on sound science and good water policy, I believe it needs some additional fine tuning, but science and extensive studies Ice Mountain has done is the reason to approve (the permit)."
The public comment period for the permit application is open until 5 p.m. on Friday, April 21.