Michigan township panel rejects Nestle pump permit

Michael Gerstein
The Detroit News

Lansing — A township planning commission in northern Michigan on Tuesday denied a bottled water company’s request to build a new pumping station needed to withdraw more underground water.

The rejection by the Osceola Township Planning Commission of a proposed new booster station at Spring Hill Camp creates another obstacle for Nestle Waters North America’s bid to withdraw 400 gallons per minute from an Osceola County well.

Nestle is separately asking the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to approve its permit application to increase its withdrawal from 250 to 400 gallons per minute. The public comment period for that permit, after multiple extensions, ends Friday with no timetable for the state department to make a decision.

Nestle is “disappointed” with the decision, company Natural Resources Manager Arlene Anderson-Vincent said in a statement.

Anderseon-Vincent said the company believes the plan “satisfies all applicable zoning standards” with its request to build a 12-by-22-foot building to house its requested booster pump, which would “increase pressure along the water pipeline” if the DEQ approves the permit for withdrawing additional water.

Nestle will now explore other options that could have a greater environmental impact on the area, such as constructing another water pipeline or using tanker trucks to transport extra water, she said.

The latest hurdle for the company comes after hundreds of people attended a public hearing on the bid in Big Rapids last week, mostly to oppose the plan.

The DEQ has been inundated with tens of thousands of comments in recent months, mostly in opposition. Environmentalists argue Nestle’s could hurt northern Michigan wetlands and criticize Nestle’s ability to sell Michigan bottled water in other states.

Critics also decry the cost to the company for pulling more water from the ground: $5,000 for a permit application and an annual $200 fee for filing related annual paperwork, according to the DEQ.

Nestle would withdraw about 210 million gallons a year if its permit were granted.

Nestle has argued that the increased withdrawal would not harm local wetlands and say critics’ claims have no scientific basis.