Nestlé Gets OK to Bottle More Water in Michigan

DEQ determined that streams and wetlands will not be harmed by the new well near Evart, Mich.

A controversial Ice Mountain water bottling plant in Michigan recently won new state permits to expand production, the Detroit Free Press reported.

The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) determined that streams and wetlands will not be harmed by the new well near Evart, Mich., and a pipeline to be built in Osceola County.

Nestlé currently draws water from four wells near its Stanwood bottling plant in west central Michigan at an average rate of 218 gal per minute (gpm). The new well will be able to pump at 150 gpm. The company also gets water from two former city wells in Evart.

Even with the new well, Nestlé will use less water daily than many other plants, including a soft drink plant in Holland, Mich., said Deb Muchmore, spokeswoman for Nestlé in Lansing.

The company's request does not fall under new legislation designed to restrict large water withdrawals from the Great Lakes basin, which was passed this summer but doesn't kick in fully until February 2009. Even if the law had been in effect, Nestlé's new well would still have been approved, said DEQ spokesman Bob McCann.

"I understand the debate about bottled water, but our job is to apply the law," McCann said.

The state's new law requires a case-by-case analysis of each large water withdrawal to determine if it will take too much water out of surrounding streams or affect the fish in them. The new well near Evart would not draw too much water out of its watershed, McCann said.

Environmental groups have fought Nestlé's bottling plant, saying Great Lakes water should not be commercialized and sold, the paper reported. "The only way to stop it is to stop drinking bottled water," said Rhonda Huff, vice president of Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation.

The DEQ ruled in 2002 that Nestlé's earlier wells would not harm local rivers, and Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation sued over the decision, in 2003 winning a reduction on the amount Nestlé could pump, the paper reported. The latest decision may mean another court challenge, Huff said.

Detroit Free Press

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