The Michigan DEQ has approved a permit from Nestle Waters North America to increase the amount of groundwater it pumps from its well near Evart, Michigan.
The state says Nestle has to complete a monitoring plan and submit it to the DEQ for approval. After that happens, Nestle will be authorized to pump up to 400 gallons of water per minute from its White Pine Springs well.
The permit request was highly controversial. As Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith reported, the DEQ received a unprecedented number of public comments on Nestle's proposal. 80,945 commenters were against the request. 75 were in favor.
“This is a 60 percent increase in the volume extracted -- potential 60 percent increase -- and it’s just tough to take,” said Nicholas Occhipinti, government affairs director for the Michigan League of Conservation Voters.
“Folks are struggling to get clean water in Detroit and Flint and having a lot of issues with PFAS contamination," he said. "It’s just a hard, hard road blow to take for Michiganders to see water pumped out of the watershed for other states.”
In a press release, MDEQ director Heidi Grether stated, “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. We cannot base our decisions on public opinion because our department is required to follow the rule of law when making determinations."
The DEQ says Nestle's permit "meets the requirements for approval under Section 17 of the Michigan Safe Drinking Water Act, 1976 PA 399, as amended (Act 399), which is required 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."