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E-M:/ Michigan water law article



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Enviro-Mich message from Jeff Alexander <scribe88@yahoo.com>
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 Here is the third article in The Muskegon's
Chronicle's three-story package of articles on
Michigan's water law and Nestle Waters' possible
expansion of its groundwater extraction activities.



 Water bottler finds loopholes
Sunday, January 07, 2007
By Jeff Alexander
Press News Service

Nestle Waters North America's bid to expand its water
bottling operation has exposed loopholes in the
state's new water withdrawal law, some environmental
advocates say.

Nestle plans to pump 216,000 gallons of spring water
out of the ground daily from a site in Osceola County,
which is north of Big Rapids.

The law does not regulate water bottlers that pump
less than 250,000 gallons of groundwater daily. It
also presumes -- until the state develops a scientific
formula to evaluate the potential impacts of water
withdrawals -- that groundwater pumping will not harm
trout streams if wells are at least 150 feet deep and
1,320 feet from the nearest trout stream.

The law also does not protect warm-water streams from
harmful groundwater pumping until more sweeping
regulations take effect in March 2008.

Critics said the law encourages companies to sink new
wells as quickly as possible, before tougher
regulations start to kick in next year.

"There is a potential for the equivalent of the
California gold rush for water until that new
(assessment) tool is in place," said Dave Dempsey, a
policy adviser to the environmental group Clean Water
Action.

State officials and a Nestle spokeswoman defend the
law, as do some environmental advocates.

"The law was a great step forward in the protection of
Michigan's water," said Bob McCann, a spokesman for
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. "I think
it's too early to say whether the law is exactly what
it needs to be."

Nestle spokeswoman Deb Muchmore said the new law
demands accountability from anyone that pumps more
than 100,000 gallons of water daily.

"I think the law helps provide standards for us and
helps address the public's questions" about water
withdrawals, she said.

Because Nestle's well is 150 feet deep and more than
1,320 feet from the nearest trout streams, Twin and
Chippewa creeks, the project is presumed to be
harmless under the law.

A Nestle study concluded that pumping 70 million
gallons of water annually from the Osceola County site
would not harm Twin or Chippewa creeks. The state
endorsed the project and said Nestle could pump three
times more water without harming nearby streams.

Dempsey believes it is no coincidence Nestle is
seeking state approval for new groundwater wells now.

"What Nestle officials are doing implies they are
racing to sink as many wells as possible before the
tougher standards take effect. It's very alarming," he
said.

Nestle officials denied Dempsey's claim. Muchmore said
Nestle has been studying the Osceola County well site
since 2000 and the Newaygo County site since 2003.

"There is no rush by Ice Mountain to drill new wells,"
Muchmore said.

The Switzerland-based company last year bottled 226
million gallons of water under the Ice Mountain label
at its Stanwood facility.

Sales of Ice Mountain water increased 17 percent in
2005, with Nestle reporting sales of $253 million for
the brand.

Nestle plans to open another Ice Mountain bottling
facility in 2009. That facility will be located near
Evart or Anderson, Ind., Muchmore said.

Critics of Michigan's water withdrawal law said it
established a legal framework encouraging water
bottling, a claim state officials and some
environmentalists dispute.

"The law isn't perfect, but our intention never was to
prevent all water withdrawals," said Rich Bowman, a
lobbyist for The Nature Conservancy of Michigan and
former executive director of Trout Unlimited's
Michigan chapter.

One environmentalist who worked on the law said it
needs revised to prevent abuses by water bottlers.

"The 250,000-gallons-per-day limit for a permit was a
compromise. The environmentalists wanted permits
required at 100,000 gallons," said James Clift, policy
director for Michigan Environmental Council. "Clearly,
we support lowering the threshold."


 

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