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Think Before You Drink: MI Water Rights Groups Join Nestlé Boycott

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Swiss-based water bottler Nestlé is accused of a water grab in Michigan and other parts of the Great Lakes basin. (o0o0xmods0o0o/morguefile)
Swiss-based water bottler Nestlé is accused of a water grab in Michigan and other parts of the Great Lakes basin. (o0o0xmods0o0o/morguefile)
October 2, 2017

FLINT, Mich. – Michiganders have spoken out with petitions and emails about bottled water giant Nestlé's plan to more than double the amount of water it pumps out of northern Michigan, and activists say now, it's time to fight back with purchasing power.

Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation has joined a larger movement to boycott Nestlé products.

The group's president, Peggy Case, says the company's legal battle with Osceola Township over denial of a zoning permit was the last straw.

She says Nestlé's actions have saddled the tiny community with legal fees and are part of a much bigger problem – the privatization of water.

"It's a fallacy that bottled water is safer and better water,” she states. “It's a marketing ploy that has been used very effectively to build up a huge market for bottled water in places where it's completely unnecessary."

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has faced significant public pressure to deny Nestlé's request to increase its well output near Evart from 150 to 400 gallons per minute.

The Council of Canadians started the boycott last year after Nestlé outbid a small Ontario town for a well that had been intended as water for local residents.

Nestlé insists its plan is simply a response to consumer demand.

While the DEQ says it is looking into concerns that the proposal would harm local wetlands, Case says damage being done by the current pumping rate is already visible.

"These used to be cold water trout streams, they're not cold water any more,” she explains. “You can't find the trout. There's places where streams have changed their course, there's alien grasses growing there, there's changes in the patterns of the currents. And the headwaters of both of these creeks are dry."

Case adds that her group does believe there is a place for bulk water, noting the important role it has played in the Flint water crisis.

Last year, bottled water sales in the U.S. rose 9 percent, surpassing soft drink sales for the first time.


Mona Shand, Public News Service - MI