Town appeals Nestle water pump plans in west Michigan

Michael Gerstein
The Detroit News

Lansing — Osceola Township filed an appeal Wednesday to ask a judge to reconsider allowing a bottled-water company to proceed with building a new pumping station that will help it extract more groundwater in western Michigan.

The township asked Michigan Court of Appeals “to correct one serious error” the local government alleges the lower circuit court made in its decision to allow Nestle Waters North America to build a booster pumping station at Spring Hill Camps, near Evart.

Mason County Judge Susan Sniegowski ruled last month that Nestle could build the station, which is part of Nestle’s broader plan to withdraw up to 400 gallons a minute from the Pine Springs well for its Ice Mountain bottled water brand.

Osceola Township’s attorney, Bill Fahey, said in an email “the Township is appealing because the circuit judge apparently misunderstood the Township zoning ordinance.”

“Nestle’s proposed booster pump facility is a private, industrial facility that Nestle wants to locate in in the middle of the Township’s agricultural district,” Fahey continued.

The township denied Nestle’s application to build the new station because the company “failed to show that the booster pump building would serve the ‘public convenience and necessity,’ as required for essential public service buildings” under a local zoning ordinance, according to the application for appeal.

Sniegowski misinterpreted the zoning ordinance, misread township planning and zoning board decisions or misunderstood the township’s position regarding Nestle’s application, the township argues.

Nestle needs the pump station to increase water pressure along a pipeline that would allow the company to transport more water if the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality approves a separate permit application to increase the amount of water it takes from an underground aquifer from 250 to 400 gallons per minute.

The ruling last month allowing Nestle to go forward with the construction follows the Osceola Township Planning Commission’s rejection of the 12-by-22-foot booster pump permit application in April.

Nestle appealed the rejection to a judge and won that appeal in December after at first agreeing to delay its court challenge until the company heard back from the DEQ about whether the water withdrawal permit will be granted.