Our Initial Response to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality's Permit Decision

To Press Releases listApr 2, 2018


Background: 

In 2016, NWNA filed a permit application with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) to increase water collection at the White Pine Springs site in Osceola County to help meet rising consumer demand. 

Statement: 

We have received a copy of the MDEQ's permit decision authorizing our requested withdrawal. We will need time to carefully review the specifics, but will comply with all permit requirements. We appreciate the MDEQ’s careful review and consideration of our application, in what it has called its most thorough review ever, and we look forward to providing them with the monitoring plans as required.

Know the Facts about our operations in Michigan. 

For Reference: 

The MDEQ’s permit decision authorizing the requested water withdrawal is NOT related to the current permit appeal for a booster pump in Osceola Township.

These are two separate issues. Our water withdrawal in the State of Michigan is governed by the MDEQ. Our water withdrawal permit is separate from the zoning permit we requested from Osceola Township. The zoning permit is to allow us to build a 12-foot by 22-foot building, designed to house a booster pump. The pump would increase pressure along our pipeline to transport additional water. If the Court determines that our zoning permit should not be granted, our water withdrawal permit from MDEQ would not be impacted. NWNA would explore other options besides the booster pump building to transport water from the spring source to our load facility.

For more information on the booster pump permit in Osceola Township, please visit our statements page here.


Frequently Asked Questions 

What are the conditions of the permit and how does Nestlé Waters plan to comply?

We are currently in the process of reviewing all of the permit conditions and developing our plans to ensure we meet each one. The permit conditions require data gathering, monitoring and reporting as well as set performance standards to protect the environment. This is consistent with how Nestle Waters has been conducting its operations. We have a strong record of environmental stewardship in Michigan, and look forward to continuing to work with the State on these important issues.

How will this affect your bottling operation?

We are fortunate to have three spring sources for Ice Mountain water which can meet customer demand for water while we implement the permit conditions and then begin withdrawing more water from the White Pine Springs well. The amount of water we withdraw from each spring source varies each day based on customer demand. Consumer demand will also continue to determine production at our plant. We will continue to provide our customers with Ice Mountain® Brand Natural Spring Water as more people seek to make healthy lifestyle choices. 

Having this flexibility ensures we are able to manage the sources sustainably and that if something unexpected were to happen to one of our three spring sources, we could still provide water to our customers and keep our employees working. Increasing capacity at the White Pine Springs well enhances our ability to achieve these goals.

How soon after receiving the permit will you start increasing your water withdrawal? 

That has not been determined. As we develop the plan to move forward we will ensure that we comply with the permit conditions as well as all local and state regulations.

Will the additional water lead to further expansion at your Stanwood bottling plant, or hiring more people? 

We have already made a $36 million capital investment to expand the Stanwood plant, adding one new water-bottling line and creating 20 new jobs. Consumer demand will ultimately determine if we need to further expand the plant and how many more employees, if any, will be needed. 

What is Nestlé's reaction to the significant amount of public comments that came in opposing the increased withdrawal?

First, it’s important to note that the MDEQ itself said that “the scope and detail of the department’s review of the Nestlé permit application represents the most extensive analysis of any water withdrawal in Michigan history,” and we appreciate the MDEQ’s careful review and consideration of our application. The MDEQ also told Michigan Public Radio that because many comments came to MDEQ via email, they cannot always determine if a person lives in Michigan.

That being said, water is an emotional issue, and we appreciate that people feel passionately about it. However, we do not feel this is indicative of our relationships with the communities in which we operate in Michigan. We’ve been a good neighbor and an active partner in Michigan for more than 16 years, and we value our positive relationships with residents and community leaders. We support many community organizations here in the state through donations of water, food, supplies and money. Ice Mountain employees volunteer in the communities where they live and work to support meaningful community projects, including environmental cleanups along rivers and highways.

Has Nestlé Waters done anything to address the concerns of the local community or answer questions about its permit? 

Again, this was regarded by the MDEQ as “the most extensive analysis of any water withdrawal in Michigan history.” The public comment period for this application opened on September 19, 2016, and ended on April 21, 2017, running for a total of 214 days.

Since July 2016, Nestlé Waters held ongoing series of presentations and face-to-face discussions with stakeholders relating to the permit. In January and February of 2017, we organized and invited the public to three community open houses. At these events, Ice Mountain employees, along with environmental experts who have worked in Michigan for years, made themselves available to answer questions regarding our permit application.

How do you respond to those who say it’s not right for Nestlé to make a profit bottling water just down the road from Flint? What have you done to help the people of Flint?

First, let’s be clear: our operations in Michigan have absolutely NO connection to the crisis in Flint. Nestlé Waters has never withdrawn water from any location in or near Flint. We source water from a completely different watershed, more than 120 miles away. That being said, what has happened to the people of Flint is unacceptable, and we share the deep concerns about the health and wellbeing of our neighbors in Flint. Which is why we have done everything we can to support the community in their time of need. Learn more about our efforts here: https://www.nestle-watersna.com/en/communities/your-community/michigan/community  

How will the final decision on the Osceola appeal impact the permit?

These are two separate issues. Our water withdrawal in the State of Michigan is governed by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ). Our zoning permit request is overseen by Osceola Township. 

The zoning permit is to allow us to build a 12-foot by 22-foot building, designed to house a booster pump. The pump would increase pressure along our pipeline to transport additional water. If the Court determines that our zoning permit should not be granted, our water withdrawal permit from MDEQ would not be impacted. NWNA would explore other options besides the booster pump building to transport water from the spring source to our load facility.

How can you ensure this additional withdrawal won’t have a negative impact on the water supply? How often will you monitor ground water and what will you be monitoring for?

We are currently in the process of reviewing all of the permit conditions (which include monitoring requirements) and developing our plans to ensure we meet each one. We look forward to continuing to work with the State on these important issues.  

We already have a strong record of environmental stewardship in Michigan. For more than 16 years, Nestlé Waters has worked with independent, professional scientists to conduct regular and ongoing monitoring of groundwater, surface water and the local ecosystem to ensure the long-term sustainability of the shared water resources. We conduct comprehensive environmental monitoring at our spring sources in Michigan.

We regularly collect data from more than 100 monitoring points in Michigan. We use this data to ensure that our withdrawals are sustainable and preserve a healthy ecosystem where we operate.

What about claims by opponents that you are trying to bankrupt Osceola Township by forcing them to go to court, and Nestlé Waters is using its deep corporate pockets to bully the small Township?

We are sensitive to the local government’s incurrence of legal fees, which is why we twice offered to delay or postpone our appeal until the MDEQ issued its decision on the withdrawal permit in an effort to help reduce the local government’s legal expenses. Unfortunately, these offers were refused by the Township. 

We have been operating in Osceola Township for more than 16 years, and we believe the plan we proposed met the Township’s site plan and special land use standards. We exercised our legal rights by asking the Circuit Court to review our request.

From the beginning, our goal with this request has been to reduce, as much as possible, any impact to the local community and the environment. We believe the favorable Circuit Court ruling demonstrates that the structure to house the booster pump will be a positive contribution for the Township and add additional tax revenue to the Township. 

Nestlé Waters has been a good neighbor to Osceola Township for many years. According to the Economic Impact Study we commissioned in 2017, in the five-county region of Kent, Mecosta, Montcalm, Newaygo and Osceola Counties, the company made an economic contribution (monies spent on wages, vendors, donations, etc.) of $18.6 million, including nearly $2.4 million in state and local taxes paid. In Osceola Township, a community of about 900 people, we have supported several meaningful community projects, including environmental cleanups along rivers and highways. We value our positive relationships with Township residents and community leaders and will always try to strengthen partnerships throughout the community.

Isn’t this new permit to increase your water withdrawal more or less seeking a reversal of this settlement with MCWC?

No. These are two completely different sites that are 40 miles apart, in different watersheds, different aquifers, different counties, and have different depths. This new permit was requested under a permitting program that did not exist in 2001.