MCWC vows to continue fight for water rights

'We are exploring our options' says board president

In this photo from 2005, MCWC president Peggy Case discusses the Nestle Water North America permit application to increase water withdrawal capacity to 400gpm, and the organizations plans to fight approval of the permit. (Pioneer file photo)

In this photo from 2005, MCWC president Peggy Case discusses the Nestle Water North America permit application to increase water withdrawal capacity to 400gpm, and the organizations plans to fight approval of the permit. (Pioneer file photo)

Pioneer file photo

OSCEOLA COUNTY — Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation will continue to advocate on behalf of residents in Osceola County that have been impacted by water withdrawals from Nestle Waters of North America.

“Ever since Nestle applied for the permit to increase pumping at the White Pine Springs well in Evart for its bottling operation in Stanwood in 2016, MCWC has been contesting this outrageous water grab,” MCWC board president Peggy Case stated in a news release. “We have argued about the injustices this grab represents to the people and ecosystems of Michigan, opposing the more than 200,000 gallons a day increase.

“Failure of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy to deny this increase has left two former trout streams badly damaged,” she continued. “Without strict enforcement by EGLE, the damage will continue.”

In the news release, Case explained that after ELGE granted an increase of 150gpm from the original well, up to 400gpm, state officials required Nestle to install a more stringent monitoring plan as a condition of exercising the right to pump at 400gpm.

When Nestle sold its North American bottled water wells and operations to Blue Triton, Inc., they worked out a deal with EGLE allowing them to withdraw the 400gpm permit in order to get out from under the monitoring requirement, she said.

“EGLE then let Blue Triton reduce its pumping to 288gpm, or 416,000 gallons a day, which is twice the threshold for a bottled water permit under the state’s water laws,” Case said. “By interpreting Michigan’s water laws to apply only to the most recent increment of 33gpm, Blue Triton was able to dodge an evaluation of the effects of the cumulative removal of 288gpm on the trout streams and watershed, and it no longer had to implement a monitoring plan that would catch these effects at these higher rates.”

MCWC has argued that the 400gpm permit should have been denied, stating that they have standing as representatives of the impacted riparian owners, that EGLE has a constitutional responsibility to protect the environment and the waters of the commons and that EGLE and the attorney general of Michigan should have defended the water instead of approval of the permit in the first place, according to the news release.

“To evade the court’s review, Blue Triton declared that they were not going to use the 400gmp permit, asking instead that EGLE re-register the amount they would withdraw from their previous permit for 250gpm, looking like they were reducing pumping and being good citizens,” Case said. “However, 288 is still higher that 250, and any increase of pumping in a water system that has already seen immense damage is unacceptable.

“EGLE supported Blue Triton and the courts agreed, despite the legal reality that EGLE’s failure to consider the cumulative effects of 288gpm violated Michigan’s water laws,” she added.

Case stated in the news release that there has been no justice for the Twin or Chippewa creeks, owners of the property on the creeks, or the people of Michigan. The headwaters remain damaged and even at the lower rates of pumping, are dry. The mudflats keep growing and trout cannot be found in the shallower stretches of the creek. 

“We are currently exploring our options for moving forward,” Case said. “Michigan’s constitution declares that the protection of water resources from harm is a paramount public interest over efforts to extract water for private sale from Michigan and the great Lakes. Now, the question for the people is how to get those laws properly enforced.”

A statement from a Blue Triton representative to the Pioneer said Blue Triton Brands appreciates the judge’s thoughtful consideration and final conclusion in their case.

“We are looking forward to continuing our efforts in Michigan as responsible protectors and conservators of the watershed while maintaining an active partnership with the Michigan communities where we have operated for 20 years,” the statement read. “We are proud to be one of the largest long-term investors and employers in the Mecosta/Osceola area, and we take great care to operate in a responsible and sustainable way to conserve and protect our shared water resources and the surrounding environment for generations to come.”