Tag: Michigan

Water is Life: Strengthening the Great Lakes Commons

On September 29-30, 2017, concerned residents from across Michigan, USA and Ontario, Canada, along with Indigenous peoples will gather in Flint, Michigan to discuss Great Lakes threats, human rights and water sovereignty.

We invite you to participate in this community-based summit of Michigan, Ontario and Indigenous residents opposing commodification and privatization of water, and strengthening the Great Lakes commons and indigenous sovereignty. Featured keynotes, plenaries and workshops will address how bottled water turns commons into commodities and how Great Lakes peoples can shift water ownership into guardianship and a human right.

Register TODAY and indicate your workshop preferences, spaces limited.

Statement to Pipeline Safety Advisory Board

Line 5 Pipeline

The state pipeline safety advisory board met Monday to discuss next steps on Line 5 at the Straits of Mackinac, in the wake of new revelations about shoddy Line 5 maintenance by Enbridge. FLOW's statement at the meeting said enough is known about the pipeline's condition and poor maintenance for the state to immediately revoke the pipeline's easement to traverse the Straits.


 

Osceola County Site Visit –  Stealing Michigan’s Invisible Resource

 

This article is a follow-up to my January post on “Groundwater – Invisible but Precious.”

On a recent bike tour in northern Michigan, I decided to put Evart on the itinerary and stop by the area where Nestle Waters North America is hoping to increase their taking of Michigan groundwater. Nestle would like to increase the flow in their existing production well (PW-1) from 250 gallons per minute (gpm) to 400 gpm, and send the water to their water bottling plant in Mecosta County. This flow would total over 500,000 gallons per day, or 210 million gallons per year. Nestle’s cost to take this water - a $200 permit fee. This production well is located in a hydrologically sensitive area of springs and between the upper reaches of Twin Creek and Chippewa Creek.

Before my visit, I had already reviewed information provided by Nestle: topographic maps, soil borings, historical stream flow and groundwater level data, an aquifer test performed on the production well, and the predictions from a groundwater computer model their consultants produced. Hydrologists rely on this type of data and models to analyze watersheds and look at “what if” scenarios. A site visit fills in some of the gaps and details that you can’t see on a sheet of paper or on your computer screen.

This area just north of the small village of Evart is beautiful - rolling and wooded. The land is private, and mostly occupied by hunt clubs and the Spring Hill Camp. The travel was slow for me on my bike because the roads were soft gravel and hilly. A loaded touring bike (and owner) prefer flat and paved. I was able to only see the creeks where they crossed the roads, but I was able to get some sense of the hydrology and topography.

Bike touring provides lots of time to think, and my concerns with this taking of Michigan groundwater rolled around in my brain. Two primary concerns are as follows:

  1. Nestle has been pumping groundwater from this production well for over a decade and gathering data. It is unusual but very beneficial to have all of this historical data. Unfortunately, Nestle did not use the data to analyze the effects of the historic pumping on the small streams and springs near their production well PW-1, nor did they share all of the data with the public. They only used the data to develop a computer model that was then utilized to predict the impacts of an increased flow from PW-1. Computer models are far from perfect. FLOW hired its own hydrologist to review Nestle’s reports, and has pointed to several concerns and unsupported assumptions in Nestle’s work.
  2. The production well is located where it is so that Nestle can label the water “Spring Water.” Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requirements in fact state that “Spring water shall be collected only at the spring or through a bore hole tapping the underground formation feeding the spring.” (See excerpts from FDA regulations in Attachment 1). The difference between taking a few gpm of groundwater flowing out of a spring, and pumping hundreds of gpm from a bore hole is significant and will likely always impact the small springs and streams nearby. If a large production well is installed, one is simply drawing in groundwater from the area and the production well can be located out of the sensitive headwater areas of the watershed. For example, the City of Evart community wells are located only a few miles away from PW-1, along the Muskegon River, and are pumping virtually the same water from the same unconfined aquifer. But the potential impacts are much different – the average flow in the Muskegon river is 450,000 gpm, whereas the average flow from a gauge on Twin Creek close to PW-1 is 780 gpm. When a pumped well removes 400 gpm from an unconfined aquifer, the result is a taking of 400 gpm from the springs and streams nearby. The impact is obvious.

So whether you enjoy bottled water or not (I don’t buy it), it is clear to me that Nestle is taking too much of Michigan’s groundwater, in a precarious and sensitive location, for too small a fee. On this bike trip, I travelled along the Muskegon River from Paris to Hersey to Evart to where it crosses Highway M-61 west of Harrison. It is a big, beautiful river, from a big, beautiful watershed that drains a large chunk of Michigan. Groundwater taken close to the Muskegon River minimizes the impact to the watershed, and gets rid of the uncertainty of the computer models. This water could not be labeled Spring Water, but that may be a compromise that the citizens of Michigan would be willing to accept.

 


Bob Otwell has been a member of the FLOW board since 2013. He is the founder of Otwell Mawby PC, a Traverse City environmental consulting firm. He has degrees in Civil Engineering and has experience in groundwater and surface water hydrology, along with environmental studies and clean-up. Bob did a career switch and was the executive director of TART Trails from 2001 to 2010.

FDA Regulation Excerpts

M22 Challenge – with FLOW as a Great Lakes Partner

WHAT

The M22 Challenge is a unique run-bike-paddle event held in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Recognized as “The Most Beautiful Place in America,” the overwhelming beauty of the race course and the camaraderie of fellow racers will make this event one you won’t forget! 

WHEN

8am Saturday June 10, 2017 

WHERE

Little Glen Lake Picnic Area. For directions to the event site, please use the following address: 6900 South Dune Highway, Empire, MI 49630-9447

WHO

All are welcome, from first time racers to professional competitors, though the multi-sport event will definitely challenge all athletes. 

How To Help

If you are interested in volunteering for this event, please contact FLOW at info@flowforwater.org or (231)-944-1568. 

FLOW Board Member Calls HB 4205 Contender for Worst Michigan Environmental Bill of 21st Century

The Michigan legislature has introduced what is a sure contender for the worst Michigan environmental bill of the 21st century.  The bill, HB 4205, would prohibit all state agencies from promulgating any administrative rule that is more stringent than an applicable federal standard.  With the federal government actively seeking to dismantle historic environmental protections by lowering or eliminating a whole host of environmental standards, HB 4205 could result in irreparable and irrevocable harm to Michigan’s priceless natural resource heritage.

We cannot assign the responsibility to protect Michigan’s natural resources to the federal government.  We cannot surrender the safeguarding of Michigan’s natural resources to an administration that is contemptuous of efforts to protect land and water resources and boasts of its eagerness to eviscerate existing environmental rules. 

The Trump Administration’s pledge to repeal two administrative rules for every rule promulgated and its promise to use the Congressional Review Act to void environmental regulations are indicators of the potential harm HB 4205 could create.  The Trump Administration’s roll back of 23 environmental rules in its first 100 days is harm already incurred.

Michigan’s natural resources are globally unique, requiring vigilant protection and stewardship.  Our Great Lakes hold 20 percent of the world’s supply of fresh surface waters and harbor distinctive, specialized watersheds.  Our shoreline of 3,288 miles is by far the longest freshwater coastline in the United States, shaping coastal dunes that are singularly unique natural features.  Science affirms that our inland lakes, rivers, streams, and wetlands are an integrated, interconnected, mutually dependent hydrologic system providing immeasurable services and benefits to all citizens.

In all, Michigan’s natural resources are magnificent, unparalleled and sublime – a natural endowment demanding extraordinary legislative safeguarding.  HB 4205 is antithetical to Michigan’s values, laws and environmental legacy.

HB 4205 has eleven legislative co-sponsors.  Their support of this bill is irreconcilable with their constitutional responsibilities.  Michigan’s Constitution explicitly defines the primary duty legislators have to protect Michigan’s natural resources.  Article 4, Section 52 of Michigan’s Constitution states:

The conservation and development of the natural resources of the state are hereby declared to be of paramount public concern in the interest of the health, safety and general welfare of the people.  The legislature shall provide for the protection of the air, water and other natural resources of the state from pollution, impairment and destruction.

Complementing this constitutional mandate is the Public Trust Doctrine, embodying a set of foundational principles, long recognized by law, that require proper stewardship of Great Lakes resources.  The doctrine creates a fiduciary responsibility of stewardship on the part of government for the preservation of these resources for the benefit of the public.  Described in Michigan jurisprudence as a “high, solemn and perpetual duty,” the Public Trust Doctrine creates a foundational, unifying, coherent legal framework for defining and prescribing rights, obligations, duties and responsibilities for protecting public resources that government – and the legislators behind HB 4205 – cannot ignore. 

Please encourage your friends and family to contact the eleven co-sponsors of HB 4205: 

Triston Cole – (primary), Jim Runestad, Aaron Miller, Kathy Crawford, Michele Hoitenga, Steven Johnson, Peter Lucido, Beau LaFave, Tom Barrett, Sue Allor, John Reilly.

Stanley “Skip” Pruss co-founded 5 Lakes Energy in 2010, specializing in energy policy and clean energy system development.

Keeping Our Great Lakes Clean

 

Some of my favorite childhood memories include hiking trips across Northern Michigan and taking in the beauty that is our Great Lakes. As my own children grew up, we regularly went on family trips across Michigan because I wanted to make sure the natural wonders of our state could be passed along to the next generation.

The Great Lakes mean so much to me personally, as they do to millions of Michiganders. They are more than just an economic engine and drinking water source: they are a way of life in Michigan.

That’s why we must protect our Lakes at all costs – and why I am very concerned about the unique threat posed by the Line 5 pipeline running underneath the Straits of Mackinac. Any pipeline leak – no matter how minor – could devastate the Great Lakes watershed and contaminate much of the safe drinking water 40 million people rely on.

According to the University of Michigan, the volume of water going through the Straits of Mackinac is ten times that of Niagara Falls, and it’s rapidly changing currents could carry oil up and down Michigan’s coasts in the event of a spill. Like you, I was alarmed by recent reports that sections of Line 5 are missing critical protective coatings.

In March, I teamed up with Senator Stabenow to demand some answers from Enbridge, whose past assurances about the structural integrity of Line 5 run directly counter to these reports. Here’s what we want to know:

  • How many areas of the pipeline have lost coating, to what extent has coating loss occurred, and how and when were these areas discovered? 
  • What inspections and remedial action are underway to address existing and future coating loss?
  • If areas along Line 5 lack a coating or wrap, how does that affect the structural integrity of the pipeline?

These are just a few of the many serious questions must be addressed by Enbridge. But while we work to find these answers, we can’t afford to keep our eye off other concerns related to pipeline safety in the Great Lakes.

For example, U.S. Coast Guard officials have told me that we do not have adequate research or a plan for cleanup of oil spills in fresh water, especially under heavy ice cover and adverse weather conditions that we see during Michigan winters.

Last year, I was pleased that my bipartisan pipeline safety bill was signed into law by then-President Obama. Among other provisions, it required the federal agency overseeing pipeline safety to consider ice cover when developing oil spill response plans, designated the Great Lakes a high consequence area – making any pipeline in the Lakes subject to higher standards – and required pipeline reviews and oversight on the age and integrity of natural gas and hazardous liquid pipelines.

I’m also focused on efforts to classify Line 5 – and other pipelines crossing the Great Lakes – as offshore pipelines. Right now, Line 5 is considered an onshore pipeline, meaning it’s held to less stringent regulatory standards and liability requirements in the event of a spill. Given the potential for significant economic and ecological harm from an oil spill in the Great Lakes, this change in classification is critical.

Finally, I’ll be looking at ways to improve freshwater spill research and make updates to our coastal maps and data in order to better safeguard our natural resources.

We must continue to highlight the risks posed by Line 5, and FLOW’s efforts to shine a light on these risks is more important than ever. From keeping our Great Lakes free of pollution to highlighting the dangers of invasive species like Asian Carp, I applaud FLOW’s commitment to protecting this unique ecosystem. Together, we can work to keep our Great Lakes clean and safe for future generations of Michiganders.

 

 

 

Welcoming Dave Dempsey to FLOW

I share in the excitement with FLOW’s Executive Director Liz Kirkwood, the staff, Board of Directors, and supporters in welcoming Dave Dempsey’s arrival at FLOW.

When we began FLOW in its initial stages nine years ago, Dave Dempsey expressed his enthusiasm and support for our launch and the course ahead.  He knows first-hand how important strong policies and actions are to address the systemic threats we face in the 21st century.

Dave and I have shared a friendship, worked together, and exchanged ideas and our shared passion for the Great Lakes, its people, and beauty for over 30 years.  FLOW, but  more importantly, all of us in Michigan and in the Great Lakes region are fortunate Dave has decided to join us at this time.  His ideas, wisdom, talents, professionalism, and experience will help us find and implement commons, public trust principles and new frameworks to find solutions to the systemic threats that face the Great Lakes and our world.

As you might expect, since Dave arrived, we’ve already rolled up our sleeves higher and waded a little more deeply to strengthen our capacity and efforts in what all of us and our organizations can accomplish as we work together and with many others in the years to come.

 

Gratefully,

Jim Olson

 

To see the recent media release about Dave Dempsey’s arrival at FLOW, please click here.

 

 

Happy Birthday, Governor Milliken

Celebrating a great former governor of Michigan

If Michigan has ever had an environmental governor, it was William G. Milliken, Traverse City’s son, who turns 95 on March 26.

The woods and waters of the Traverse City area, Milliken said, and particularly summer days at a family cottage near Acme, bonded him to nature in his childhood. That embedded appreciation carried forward into his political career.

Environmental Action

When Milliken became governor in January 1969, the public was clamoring for environmental action. He delivered.

In a January 1970 special message to the Legislature, he said, “The preservation of our environment is the critical issue of the Seventies.” The message contained a 20-point program, including proposals that ultimately became a shorelands protection act and a natural rivers conservation law.

An even bigger achievement that year was the passage, with Milliken’s support, of the Michigan Environmental Protection Act, or MEPA. Granting any citizen standing to sue for the protection of natural resources and the public trust in these resources from pollution, impairment, or destruction, the law had national significance and was imitated in many states.

In 1976, he defied Amway Corp. co-founder and major Republican Party donor Jay Van Andel by backing a tough limit on phosphorus in laundry detergent, a product manufactured by the company. Reduction of the nutrient almost immediately shrank algal blooms in Michigan waters.

The same year, the legislature deadlocked on a proposal to attach a deposit to some beverage containers. Convinced the law would reduce litter and promote recycling, Milliken joined forces with the Michigan United Conservation Clubs to put the proposed container deposit law on the 1976 ballot. Voters approved the law by a roughly 2-to-1 margin. It is still considered the most successful law of its kind in the nation.

Milliken signed over a dozen major environmental bills into law, many of them evolving from his proposals: wetlands conservation, hazardous waste management, inland lakes and streams protection, and what is now the state Natural Resources Trust Fund, a public land acquisition and protection program capitalized by proceeds from oil and gas drilling on state lands. He left office on January 1, 1983 after almost 14 years in office, the longest tenure of any Michigan governor.

Defining Water

In 2011, Milliken said Michigan citizens must think of water “as something sacred, not to be treated as a commodity for barter and trade. If we Michiganders observe this principle in public policy and private actions, there will be no limit to the prosperity of our state. Water will then continue to define Michigan, enrich us in ways that include but reach far beyond dollar values, and be our legacy to generations to come. It is no wonder that our Supreme Court once declared that our streams, lakes, and Great Lakes are held in a ‘high, solemn and perpetual trust.’”

Happy Birthday, Governor Milliken.

Interview with Brooke Weatherford from Eightfold Creative

I support keeping oil out of the Great Lakes

FLOW is forever spreading awareness. It is our job to educate people about public trust and about what is happening with the Great Lakes in the world today – the joys and potential threats, and what we can do about our water. Part of that awareness is through social media. We teamed up with Eightfold Creative to gather awareness in an eye-catching way to important Great Lakes issues. I have Brooke Weatherford here today to talk about the process.

 

Brooke, thanks for joining us. Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Brooke Weatherford. I am a recent graduate of Michigan State University’s Master’s in Advertising program with a specialization in Non-Profit Fundraising. I earned my B.A. from MSU as well in 2015 in Marketing. I currently work as a social media coordinator under the brand Eightfold Creative out of Detroit, Michigan. Eightfold Creative is a high-quality video production company founded by a group of my friends in 2013 that has grown into a highly competitive force in the industry. I have always been passionate about advertising strategy and knew that I wanted to do some type of creative branding. Two years ago, I began independently managing social media pages for a few local businesses under the Eightfold brand. Fast forward to today, and I have been doing social media management, content creation, and design work consistently, while finishing my degrees and working on a number of other Eightfold Projects. 
 

Tell us some more about Eightfold Creative, and what makes it unique.

Eightfold is unique because it was started from the ground up by a group of MSU students in film and business only five short years ago. Since then, the company has acquired a number of high profile clients and has developed strong relationships with top level advertising agencies in Detroit. Eightfold is the perfect example of the next generation taking the reigns of an industry and doing things their own way. The culture and work ethic of this group is truly outstanding, and even though I never expected to be immersed in the film industry, I really love where it has taken me. The best way to understand Eightfold is to visit our site and view the productions. They truly speak for themselves. 
 

It’s a Michigan-based company. And a lot of the work you have been doing for FLOW focuses specifically on Michigan and the Great Lakes. A passion and personal investment is often present in your work. What instigated this passion for the Great Lakes?

I have always had a strong love for the outdoors. Growing up, my parents always had a boat, and I would spend every weekend out on the lakes being rocked to sleep by the waves, and waking up to the sound of the Lake Michigan seagulls. As I have grown older and began traveling the world, I have developed a sense of pride for Michigan and its natural beauty, feeling almost as if it is a secret that people don’t always understand unless they have experienced it first-hand. Growing up in East Lansing, I learned about community activism early on, and participated in it throughout high school. But the idea of involving it into my career didn’t hit me until midway through my college career. As I traversed through a series of corporate internships, I learned more and more about what it means to love what you do. I found that getting involved and pursuing ways to contribute to helping non-profits by doing what I do best was a way to get fulfillment out of my career. Today, I have worked on social media and branding campaigns for 4 non-profits and hope to expand this portfolio. I spent last summer creating media for an eco-village in the Panamanian jungle, where I learned exactly what it meant to live 100% sustainably, in harmony with the land and water, and how to communicate the teachings of that lifestyle back to people at home.  Much of my free time today is spent loving the outdoors and surrounding myself with that culture.
 

That’s excellent. There is so much outdoor beauty right here in Michigan. To take that one step further, tell us about how your experiences inspired your ideas for the social media campaigns. 

The idea behind the imagery in the campaigns for FLOW were based in the goals of creating an emotional connection that would boost awareness about key issues like shutting down Line 5. Fortunately, the beauty of the outdoors is something that we all have in common, so using the beautiful attention grabbing photography to stop people from scrolling was an easy first step for me. Beyond that, the key to this campaign was consistency and simplicity, and the call to action about sharing that really made the connections with people. The posts are meant not only to educate but to give users a sense of pride by posting the photo. When they share a post that clearly states their support for a cause like protecting wildlife, or keeping pollution out of the Great Lakes, they automatically gain rapport from their online peers. Caring about something is becoming trendy, and posting about it online helps people not only feel like they are helping contribute, but puts them in a positive light in their friends’ eyes. Capitalizing on these emotions to boost awareness about important environmental issues was my primary strategy with this campaign. 
 

Aside from sharing the posts, what can our readers do to help contribute?

I think the best way to help care for the Great Lakes is to talk about them with the people around you. As impactful as social media can be, it is the social part that makes the most difference. Telling your friends, family, and co-workers about risks the Great Lakes are facing, or educating them on how to be a more responsible citizen is what will make the most difference. Being vocally appreciative for the natural world is another way to make people think. If someone who respects you hears you speak fondly of the Great Lakes and their pristine beauty, they may consider their own impact or appreciation more deeply. 10 of these conversations could then turn into 40 and then into 100 and then into thousands. A change in culture is the only way to make a real difference, and changing culture starts with the confident and sincere voice of a friend. 
 

Well, we have been glad to hear your voice today. Brooke, where can people find out more about you and your work?

You can learn more about me and my work at www.brookeweatherford.com,

and also at www.eightfold-creative.com.

 

Thanks for sharing, Brooke.

 
 
 

Not So Fast Nestlé: A Citizen’s Guide to Oppose Nestlé Water Grab

Bottled water

Nestlé has revived plans to more than double its pumping in Osceola County.

What’s At Stake

There’s a big fight brewing over water worldwide. From drought-stricken California, to Canada, to Germany and beyond, the Nestlé corporation is one of the key players in a worldwide effort to privatize our finite water resources and then sell it back to us in plastic bottles in and outside the Great Lakes Basin.

In 2009, Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation (MCWC) ended a 10-year battle with Nestlé/Ice Mountain and won by reducing the amount of water being pumped so that nearby wetlands and streams would not be harmed in Mecosta County. The facts in the MCWC litigation demonstrate how Nestlé underestimated the harm aquifer over-pumping causes to adjacent surface waters, wetlands, fish, and aquatic life. FLOW’s founder and president, Jim Olson, represented MCWC as the lead litigator in this critical battle to safeguard our waters from privatization.

Since 2001, Swiss-owned Nestlé has removed more than 4 billion gallons of groundwater from its three Michigan wells in the Muskegon River watershed for a paltry $200 annual fee per well, according to MDEQ statistics.

Nestlé has now revived plans to more than double its pumping from 150 gallons per minute (gpm) to 400 gpm or 576,000 gallons per day (gpd) in Osceola County just north of Evart, Michigan.  Production Well PWB101, White Pine Springs Site, as it is known, is located between two cold water Muskegon River tributary creeks, Twin and Chippewa Creeks. Last winter, when Nestlé applied for this pumping increase using the state’s computer water withdrawal assessment tool, it failed. Nestle then requested and obtained a site specific review by DEQ staff that showed that only minimal declines in water levels in the summer of 2016.

If approved without full disclosure and public review, Nestlé would only create 20 new jobs, but would legally be entitled to bottle and sell nearly 500 million gallons per year of Michigan water at the Ice Mountain bottling facility in Stanwood, Michigan.

What You Can Do To Help

Please write an email letter to the DEQ at deq-eh@michigan.gov prior to April 21, 2017 at 5:00 p.m., and demand the following:

  • Urge the DEQ to oppose Nestlé/Ice Mountain’s current permit application to increase its allowed pumping from 150 to 400 gallons per minute (gpm) from White Pine Springs Well (PW-101), Osceola County, Michigan.
  • Demand the DEQ to set aside its January 2016 site-specific review for lack of public notice and comment;
  • Demand the DEQ complete an entirely new site specific review;
  • Demand the DEQ conduct site specific review on all permits issued to date to avoid incremental steps and registrations by Nestlé (this is in addition to the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA);
  • Demand full disclosure and transparency to the public for informed decision-making.
  • Demand sufficient time for independent analysis and public involvement in Nestlé’s recent request.
  • Demand the State to apply the legal standards and requirements set forth in the Water Withdrawal Assessment Tool, riparian reasonable use law, public trust law, Great Lakes Compact, and the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.
  • Request multiple public hearings in the following locations: Evart, Detroit, Flint, Muskegon, and Traverse City.

For your reference, we have included a template letter for you to use and craft your own letter.

If you live outside Michigan, we all know that what one state does in the Great Lakes Basin, affects all. As residents in the region, we cannot afford to allow significant increases in water withdrawals without sufficient time for independent analysis and public involvement.

If you live in one of the eight Great Lakes states or the provinces of Quebec and Montreal, we urge you to write your governor/premier. Ask that diversions of Great Lakes water in containers less than 5.7 gallons be added to the 2008 Great Lakes Compact.

Please think twice about drinking bottled water. Instead, insist all elected officials make clean, safe drinking water a priority. We can live without a lot of things but water is not one of them.

 

Template Letter

Governor Rick Snyder
P.O. Box 30013
Lansing, Michigan 48909

Attorney General Bill Schuette
G. Mennen Williams Building, 7th Floor
525 West Ottawa Street
P.O. Box 30212
Lansing, Michigan 48909

Director Heidi Grether
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ)
Office of Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance
P.O. Box 30241
Lansing, MI  48909-7741

Division Director Bryce Feighner
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ)
Office of Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance
P.O. Box 30241
Lansing, MI  48909-7741

Supervisor Matt Gamble
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ)
Source Water Unit
P.O. Box 30241
Lansing, MI  48909-7741

VIA Email Submission

deq-eh@michigan.gov
miag@michigan.gov  
migov@exec.state.mi.us

 

Dear Governor, Attorney General, DEQ Director Grether, Division Director Feighner, and Supervisor Gamble:

I urge the State of Michigan and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) to reject Nestlé/Ice Mountain’s current permit application to more than double its allowed groundwater pumping from 150 to 400 gallons per minute (gpm) from White Pine Springs Well (PW-101) in Osceola County, Michigan.    

By law, Nestlé’s proposed groundwater withdrawal must result in no “individual or cumulative adverse resource impacts,” and must be “in compliance with all applicable local, state, and federal laws as well as all legally binding regional interstate and international agreements.” Based on the following legal and technical deficiencies outlined below, the Nestlé application must be denied:

  1. Nestlé has not submitted sufficient critical information on which the DEQ can make a “reasonable determination” in accordance with the standards set forth in the applicable water laws of Michigan.
  2. The application is technically deficient because:

(a) The information and evaluation of groundwater, wetlands, springs, and streams is based on an unreliable, manipulated computer model that looks narrowly at the proposed 150 gpm pumping level increase, and not the cumulative 400 gallons-per-minute;

(b) The application fails to rely on observed existing hydrology, soils, environment, and other conditions, in violation of Michigan’s water withdrawal law, which mandates evaluation of existing conditions;

(c) Nestlé’s consultants failed to collect or use real conditions to compare to its unfounded, computer modeling predictions of no effects; and

(d) The model assumes more water in the natural system than exists, assumes more rain and snowfall gets into groundwater than actually occurs, used only selective monitoring for 2001-2002, and left out monitoring data from 2003 to present because it would show more negative impact to streams, wetlands, and wildlife.

  1. Nestlé has not filed its existing pumping records, and its pumping to date has violated Michigan law because it has pumped and transported water without authorizations required by Section 17 of the Safe Drinking Water Act and the applicable Section 32723 of the state’s water law.
  1. Four hundred (400) gpm will diminish the twin creeks and wetlands, which in turn will impair and harm the water, aquatic resources, and public trust in those natural resources, contrary to Michigan law.

Despite a supplemental information request to Nestlé in February, the MDEQ still do not have sufficient information from Nestlé related to the groundwater modeling, streamflow data, fish, macroinvertebrates, and aquatic habitat data, as well as the company’s compliance with Michigan’s reasonable use doctrine and related water laws. Accordingly, the application as it stands now must be denied for failure to show that its proposed pumping will not harm the creeks, wetlands, streams, species, and ecosystem. In addition, Nestlé’s deficient record raises questions as to whether the company received proper authorization in 2015 to increase its pumping from 150 to 250 gpm.

Nestlé’s proposed 167 percent expansion increase request continues to put our public waters at risk. Remember that Michigan’s 12,000 year old glacial sand, gravel and clay and ancient groundwater is recharged by only 8 or 9 inches a year of precipitation – about 30 percent of an average of 32 inches a year in the form of snowfall and rain during the rainy season. The rest of the year is dry with frequent drought in the summer months such that these headwater streams and creeks simply cannot survive; pumping at Nestlé’s proposed rate is simply not sustainable, and the MDEQ should deny this request outright.

Water is public. Water is also our most precious finite resource that is the lifeblood of our economy, our health, and our way of life here in the Great Lakes Basin. Privatizing our waters for profit and export outside our watersheds is a legally-defined harm. As public trustee of our waters, the State of Michigan is legally bound, on behalf of current citizens and future generations, to protect this resource from impairment, harm, or privatization for solely private purposes. This is the law.

The nonprofit, FLOW (For Love of Water), intends to submit additional substantive technical and legal comments to the MDEQ related to this permit application. Based on Nestlé’s legally and technical deficient application, I urge the State of Michigan to deny this permit and to impose a statewide moratorium on any new high volume wells near headwater creeks or for bottled water until these issues are addressed. 

Thank you for fulfilling your public trust obligations to safeguard our most precious resource – water.

Sincerely,

 

 

Further Reading

“DEQ sets table for strict review of Nestle water bid” (MLive, Feb. 7, 2017)

“Where will the water go? A snapshot of recent changes in Michigan water law” (Michigan Real Property Review, Winter 2006)

“How Michigan water becomes a product inside Nestle’s Ice Mountain plant” (MLive, Dec. 8, 2016)

“Why Nestle really wants more Michigan groundwater” (MLive, Dec. 6, 2016)

“Public wasn’t adequately notified of Nestle water request, says DEQ director” (MLive, Dec. 5, 2016)

“Flint hits chemical company with $2.6M in fines over industrial waste” (MLive, Dec. 5, 2016)

“DEQ overruled computer model that flunked Nestle groundwater bid” (MLive, Nov. 22, 2016)

“DEQ pushes Nestle groundwater bid public review into next year” (MLive, Nov. 22, 2016)