Outrage ensues as Michigan grants Nestlé permit to extract 200,000 gallons of water per day

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The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) granted Nestlé Waters North America, Inc. (Nestlé) a permit to increase its groundwater withdrawal for the purpose of bottling drinking water, according to a MDEQ statement on April 2.
Nestlé is authorized to begin withdrawing water at a rate up to 400 gallons per minute from the White Pine Springs well located near Evart, Michigan. Withdrawal may begin once the monitoring plan is in place and the baseline data is collected.
The MDEQ determined that the application met the requirements for approval under the Michigan Safe Drinking Water Act.
However, more than 80,000 people have said they oppose the proposal, while only 75 people said they are in favor of it.
As Nestlé works to extract more clean water resources, residents in Michigan cities, most notably Flint, struggle to find what they believe to be affordable, safe water. 

“The scope and detail of the department’s review of the Nestlé permit application represents the most extensive analysis of any water withdrawal in Michigan history,” C. Heidi Grether, director of MDEQ, said in the statement.
Nestlé met the requirements to produce bottled drinking water if the water is from a new or increased large quantity withdrawal of more than 200,000 gallons of water per day from the waters of the state under the Michigan Safe Drinking Water Act.
"We have made a long-term investment in Michigan, and we take great care to operate in a responsible and sustainable way to preserve and protect our shared water resources and the surrounding environment for generations to come," the statement said.
Nestlé has to prepare a monitoring plan consistent with the requirements of the permit and submit it to MDEQ for consideration and approval.
“In full transparency, the majority of the public comments received were in opposition of the permit, but most of them related to issues of public policy which are not, and should not be, part of an administrative permit decision,” Grether added in the statement. 
The government cannot base their decisions on public opinion because their department is required to follow the rule of law when making its determinations, according to Grether.
The Nestlé approval was announced just days before Michigan ended its free bottled water program in Flint on Friday, April 6, according to a press release by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder.
Four years ago, Flint city officials elected to switch the city’s water source from Lake Huron to the Flint River. This caused lead to leach into the city’s water supply, sickening many residents.
Snyder first recognized the problem two years ago. Officials have since been working to replace the city’s water pipes. A state aid package provided for the free water bottle distribution while officials worked to resolve the problem. 

The press release claims the water quality has been restored in Flint.
Testing has showed the levels of lead in the city's water have been below the federal limit for nearly two years. The water's quality is "well within the standards," Snyder announced Friday.
However, some residents don't believe that the water is safe to drink or use yet.
Hundreds of protesters traveled by bus from Flint to the state capitol in Lansing on Wednesday, April 11, one day after the final four Flint water distribution sites closed. The protesters demanded action.
Residents chanted about Nestlé in their protests, as Nestlé was recently approved to increase the volume of fresh water it currently pumps for bottled water. Flint residents claim their water is still unsafe, according to local media reports.

Nestlé has responded to the Michigan outrage with a "Committed to Michigan"page on their website, including a "Know the Facts" section. The section states facts about the situation, such as that the water they "use is naturally replenished through the water cycle."
"We're dedicated to making healthy, made-in-Michigan products while supporting our communities and caring for the state's most precious natural resource for years to come," Nestlé said in a tweet on April 10.
This is not the first time that Nestlé has sparked water wars in the United States, such as in Cascade Locks, Oregon, in 2015 and Cabazon, California, in 2004.
On Thursday, April 26, Snyder applauded Republican State Representative Larry Inman for introducing a bill that would invest $110 million annually to help rebuild the state’s water infrastructure, according to a press release.
“Providing Michiganders with access to safe drinking water and protecting our environment is paramount, and Representative Inman’s legislation recognizes the importance of these protections,” Snyder said in the press release.

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