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Lansing – A group has filed a challenge against the state Department of Environmental Quality’s permit for the Nestle Waters North America Inc. to pump more western Michigan groundwater for its Ice Mountain brand.

Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation submitted the petition Friday against the DEQ, which last month approved Nestle’s application to remove 400 gallons of water per minute from an Osceola Township aquifer. Nestle had been permitted to withdraw 250 gallons per minute.

The conservation group says the DEQ’s site review failed to pick up on the environmental consequences of withdrawing additional water, therefore “illegally granting Nestle the water of the commons.”

The case could go to trial if it fails to be resolved.

Nestle officials say the company has confidence in the scientific data within its permit application.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality — along with the Department of Natural Resources and the Attorney General’s Office — decided Nestle’s application meets state standards and wouldn’t hurt the water supply.

After the state approves a monitoring plan that Nestle is required to submit, the company can start withdrawing up to 400 gallons per minute from a White Pine Springs well near Evart for its Ice Mountain bottled water brand.

State reviews determined the accelerated withdrawals by the Swiss company wouldn’t hurt the watershed or nearby wildlife. But state officials said they would monitor surface waters and do periodic biological surveys to ensure the local aquatic life and habitat isn’t hurt.

Nestle paid a $5,000 application fee and will continue to pay an annual reporting fee of $200 to extract 576,000 gallons per day of Michigan groundwater. There is no extra expense for the increased withdrawal, which drew complaints from environmental groups and residents at the April 2017 public hearing.

In the recommendation memo, Eric Oswald, Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance Division director, acknowledged that one area of the watershed could be hurt by the accelerated withdrawals.

“There is one area, SF-8, where the model, simulating pumping at 400 gpm (gallons per minute) after 20 years, predicts a streamflow depletion >20 percent of the index flow calculated by DEQ staff at this location as part of the permit application review,” Oswald wrote.

As a condition of the permit approval, the DEQ will require that area to be monitored closely for depletion problems.

Nestle should “reduce pumping immediately” if an “adverse resource impact” occurs — a depletion of the water in that area of 20 percent or more, Oswald said.

But the plan overall provides “modest economic benefits” and doesn’t harm the environment, Oswald said.

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