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Donations Pour In to Help MI Community Protect Its Water

Support for a Michigan community fighting a corporate giant has come from around the world. (K. Turnbull/MCWC)
Support for a Michigan community fighting a corporate giant has come from around the world. (K. Turnbull/MCWC)
December 8, 2017

OSCEOLA TWP., Mich. – A small Michigan community will receive an early holiday gift in the form of donations from around the world as it tries to protect its water.

Osceola Township Treasurer Martin Nieman says the fight to keep Nestlé from expanding its groundwater pumping operation has left the tiny community of fewer than 2,000 people drowning in debt. When he got word the online community "" had raised $30,000 to help with the legal fees, he was speechless, because he says the situation was dire.

"The township would probably have to declare bankruptcy, basically," he warns. "Because what other choice do you have? We've used just about all the resources of income that we've had to fight this."

Nestlé sued the township after it denied a permit for the booster station that would allow it to more than double the amount of groundwater it withdraws. While Nestle says the operation will not cause environmental damage, local residents say the current pumping rate is depleting streams and harming wildlife.

Angus Wong with SumOfUs says the donations came from across the country and as far away as Europe. He says many people were outraged to learn that under state law, Nestlé would pay less than one dollar per million gallons to bottle, pump, and sell Michigan's water from this site.

"This is a really true David versus Goliath story, that a multi-billion dollar corporation is suing a small township who are just exercising their democratic right," he says.

Wong says the situation with Nestlé and the Flint water crisis have both served to highlight what a critical resource water is for communities in Michigan and around the world.

"As we saw in the last couple of years, water is life," he adds. "People care about water everywhere and people are driven when a big corporation like Nestle is just trying to take more water for no money and sell it elsewhere for great profit."

In addition to the donations, nearly 200,000 people have signed a petition calling on Nestlé to drop the lawsuit, and protesters brought copies of those petitions to a hearing last month. The judge in the case has not yet issued a decision.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - MI