BIG RAPIDS (WWJ/AP) — Hundreds of people turned out for a public hearing on a company’s proposal to boost the volume of groundwater it pumps for bottling in western Michigan.
Nestle Waters North America wants to withdraw up to 400 gallons per minute from a well in Osceola County — up from 150 gallons per minute. The request is pending with state regulators.
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality says it has a large amount of information to consider. Following Wednesday night’s hearing at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, public comments are being accepted through April 21.
Environmentalists critical of the request say the plan could hurt wetlands if the company were permitted to drain more underground water for its Ice Mountain bottling operation.
Nestle representatives say the increase wouldn’t hurt the environment.
Nestle claims average water levels in nearby Twin and Chippewa creeks would “decline only minimally” from the increased pumping, according to a report in Mlive, and wouldn’t exceed what might be expected from natural stream stage variability.
According to the proposal, “an incremental effect of the proposed increased withdrawal on wetland water levels may occur in five wetlands, but is not expected to cause adverse ecological effects.”
The company added these specific wetlands did not have any threatened or endangered species.
K Alexander drove all the way from Southfield to attend the informational session and public hearing, per Mlive. He said he can’t stand the thought of a major corporation simply taking Michigan’s groundwater.
“I don’t think this is right,” Alexander said. “The DEQ is trying to cover their tracks. They put $36 million into the building and now ask for a permit. It’s pretty obvious they are trying to pull it through the marketplace. They’re going to suck the area dry.”