BIG RAPIDS — Citizens can still have their voices heard about Nestlé Waters North America's application to increase its pumping withdrawal capacity from a well in Osceola Township.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality announced Thursday afternoon it has extended the public comment period until 5 p.m. on Friday, April 21, for Nestlé's application. The water-bottler has applied to increase its pumping withdrawal capacity of 250 gallons per minute to 400 gpm at the White Pine Spring production well, under Section 17 of the Michigan State Drinking Water Act, 1976, PA 39, as amended.

The DEQ also announced it is having a public information session and public hearing on Wednesday, April 12, at The University Center at Ferris State University, located at 805 Campus Drive, in Big Rapids. The information session begins at 4 p.m. and the public hearing is set for 7 p.m.

Following the informational session, a sign-up sheet will be available for members of the public who wish to speak during the public hearing. Those signing up will be given equal time to speak based on the time available and the number of those wishing to speak, the DEQ announced.

This is the third time the public comment period has been extended for Nestlé's application. The original public comment deadline had been Nov. 3, 2016. It was extended by the DEQ an additional 30 days. Before the extension period was set to expire, the DEQ extended the comment period an additional 90 days.

In late February, Mike Shore, director of media relations for the DEQ, told the Pioneer the department has received numerous comments on the permit application.

"Comments are coming in and we have received over 15,000," he said at the time.

In announcing the extension, the MDEQ said it requested additional information from Nestlé on Feb. 14 about the proposed large quantity water withdrawal increase and anticipate receiving the company’s response by March 16. The extension of the public comment period will allow the MDEQ staff adequate time to prepare the draft permit as well as offer public participation.

The MDEQ reviews all comments however the number of comments received is not one of the factors considered in permit decisions. For this permit application process, comments providing a legal or scientific justification for denying, altering or approving the permit will be considered based on the regulatory decision framework outlined in Section 17.

Those wishing to speak up can can email written comments to deq-eh@michigan.gov or mail them to MDEQ, Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance Division, Environmental Health Section, P.O. Box 30421, Lansing, MI 48909-7741.

For additional information, including Nestlé’s Application Information Package and Section 17 of the Michigan Safe Drinking Water Act, visit michigan.gov/deq/0,4561,7-135-3313-399187--,00.html.