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Michigan watchdogs lose bid to stop Nestlé from pumping more water

Associated Press

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EVART, Mich. (AP) — State regulators on Friday said they rejected an appeal of a bottled water company’s plan to pump more water in western Michigan.

The head of Michigan’s environment department said she can intervene “under very limited circumstances, which are not present” in the dispute involving a grass-roots group and Nestlé’s Ice Mountain operations.

For a yearly $200 state permit, Nestlé pumps more than 1 million gallons a day of Michigan groundwater that it then bottles and sells for profit.

“EGLE remains committed to protecting our state’s valuable water resources, but as a regulatory agency we must act within our statutory authority,” said Liesl Clark, director of the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy.

In April, an administrative law judge upheld a state permit, which allows Nestle Waters North America to pump 400 gallons a minute from a well near Evart in Osceola County, a 60% increase.

The water is trucked to an Ice Mountain production facility in Mecosta County. Nestle pulls water from other wells in the area.

Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation and the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians had challenged a permit that was approved Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration. The critics say increased pumping will harm the environment in the Chippewa Creek watershed.

Nestle disagrees and has defended its scientific work. Administrative Judge Dan Pulter said the higher pumping rate is “reasonable under common law principles of water law in Michigan.”

Peggy Case, president of the citizen group, hopes Attorney General Dana Nessel will step in.

“All the waters around Evart are high. The Muskegon River is high. But Twin and Chippewa creeks aren’t,” Case told MLive.com. “There are places where feeder streams are all dried up or are an inch or 2 deep, which isn’t deep enough for trout.”

Nestle Waters North America — the biggest bottled-water company in the nation — praised the state’s decision.

“We have confidence in the science behind our application from the 18 years’ worth of environmental data collected near the site since beginning our operations in Michigan,” the company said in a statement.

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