This article is condensed from the huge file I have on the following subject.
In 2000 I was serving on the board of commissioners for Osceola County. I had established the Conservation, Environment and Sold Waste committee within the committee structure. In the fall of 2000, we became aware that the foreign-based Nestlé Corporation announced that they wanted to pump water from two springs in Osceola and Mecosta counties, in addition from wells they would establish.
We had many citizens concerned about the impact Nestlé would have on their wells, ponds, streams, and wetlands. We found that Nestlé had been kicked out of Wisconsin and had announced that they were going to western Michigan (Osceola and Mecosta counties). As their normal procedure is they approached two small towns in northern Wisconsin with a total population of 1000. Nestlé announced that they wanted to tap two springs and pump 5000 gallons of spring water per minute and they would not hurt the environment, build a bottling plant, provide jobs and boost the economy. Massive opposition and the lawsuits began. Among the lawsuits was one by the Ho-Chunk Indian tribe. One of the town’s mayors was recalled. All during this time Nestlé was drilling wells and preparing to build a huge factory. This was in Adams County who were zoned. Eventually, they wrote a resolution that declared that they would not change their zoning for Nestlé. They then announced that they were headed to western Michigan.
A key to all of this was that the United States Geological Survey (USGS) publically stated that they did not trust Nestlé, their monitoring and that Nestle’s operation would hurt the environment. I had the opportunity to have a series of conference calls with them and learned valuable information.
So in the fall of 2000 Nestlé is at our doorstep. We held a well attended public meeting at the courthouse with a Nestle representative and an agent from the USGS present. We asked if Nestle would be willing to establish an escrow account to be used if wells and wetlands were affected. Their answer was NO! I asked the agent from the USGS to examine Nestle’s proposal. He did get back with me and predicted that if Nestle eventually gets what they want ponds and wetlands feeding the spring may dry up and not recharge. The two streams that begin from the spring will be affected. He warned not to trust Nestle’s monitoring.
Nestlé had made the decision that they were going to Mecosta County first, tap a spring, drill wells on their property and build a bottling plant there.
A group of concerned citizens formed Michigan Citizens For Water Conservation (MCWC). They filed a lawsuit and eventually spent $1,000,000 fighting Nestlé. While still in litigation, the company built a $100,000,000 bottling plant larger than Buckingham Palace. Nestlé received a permit to pump 400 GPM from the Mecosta County spring and a $9,500,000 tax break. The permit cost Nestlé $200 which allows them to pump millions of gallons of the freshest, coldest water on earth.
After Nestlé began pumping the flow to the Dead Stream and Thompson Lake was down to a trickle. The court ordered a reduction to 218 GPM. Currently, they are pumping that amount of water from the spring plus groundwater from their wells which adds up to millions, then billions of water and pay nothing for it.
Nestle’s next project is to draw water from the White Pine spring located in Osceola Township, Osceola County, which is near the city of Evart. Back in 2000, there was a large sign on US-10 as you entered Evart from the west. It read “Perrier (Nestle) Go Home.” I found out that a local well driller had posted the sign. I wondered why a well driller who could make a fortune placed such a sign. I contacted him (who now has been in business for over the past 60 years) and inquired why the sign was there. He told me that between industry, the city of Evart and private wells the aquifer had declined by ten feet. In 2017, I contacted him again to see if the aquifer had recharged. He stated no it had not and now has declined by fourteen feet. I have brought this to the licensing authorities several times without being acknowledged. How many millions of gallons of the coldest, purest water on earth must this be?
Forward to 2005. Nestlé has paid $200 and had been granted a permit to draw water at 150 gallons per minute from the White Pine spring. Somewhere between then and now they began pumping 250 GPM. How they were able to do this without a permit I don’t know. This began like a soap opera with twists, turns, lies, claims of questionable science (voodoo science). In 2016 Nestlé applied for a permit to increase it’s take of water from the spring to 400 GPM. There was a huge amount of opposition from the public. A public hearing was held in Big Rapids where over 500 attended and many spoke in opposition. The Michigan Department of “Environmental Quality” (MDEQ) has received over 80,000 comments on Nestlé’s proposal.
A pile of local newspaper articles appeared during this period many claiming “State—Nestlé agree that Nestle’s water withdrawal will not have a negative effect on the environment”. Nestlé was bringing out many facts as an example “Creek has greater base flow than state’s model predicts” (remember the Voodoo science?). There was even one article about how Trout Unlimited has no problem with the withdrawal.
The Michigan Safe Drinking Water Act is connected to the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act which states that groundwater pumping must have no negative impact. After Nestlé began it’s pumping at White Pine Spring neighboring residents began to see environmental changes. Spring fed ponds dried up and haven’t recharged, wetlands affected and springs dried up or were reduced to a trickle. Chippewa and Twin Creek both have their beginning at the White Pine spring. Residents complained about the reduced flow of water and were taking photos of before and after.
On February 14, 2017, the MDEQ sent a two and a half page request for additional information. It required Nestlé to review their pumping impact of streams, wetlands, and bodies of water. Among the data required were the stream flow, stream temperatures, fish, aquatic species, the method used, etc. (give an A+ to the MDEQ). Nestlé had until August 30 to comply. They couldn’t. They were then given until September 30 to comply. They couldn’t. They were then given until November 3rd. It appears that they did not do that either. Nestlé has hired a firm called Arcadis to monitor these things, so what is their problem? It couldn’t be that they are in serious violation, could it?
I have never forgotten the prediction that the agent from the USGS had made to me in 2000. That and the fact that nothing was heard about Nestlé’s requirement to survey the two trout streams I decided to research both streams to see if the water temperatures would support trout. I asked John McClane to assist me. John is a registered surveyor who knows the natural resources surrounding Nestlé’s operation. He is also on the board of directors of Michigan Citizens For Water Conservation (MCWC). On July 17, 2017, we began our research by starting at the headwaters of both streams to where they enter the Muskegon River. We stopped at every culvert crossing. We found that the temperatures ranged from 51 degrees to 60 degrees which would support a trout population.
What I expected to find were full flowing streams. I couldn’t believe the low water that I was observing. On July 31, John and I began another segment of our research (in cooperation with MCWC). As water flows through a culvert for a long period of time aquatic growth appears on the sides of the culvert. This provides a historic record that can indicate if the water flow has been compromised. Our objective was to measure water depth in a culvert, the measurement from the top of the water to the historic water line, measure the width of the culvert, check the water depth downstream and record any trout or other aquatic species that was observed. We found none. As we checked each culvert from the headwaters to the Muskegon River, we recorded water depth from 2 inches to 8 inches on average. It was estimated that historically between 14 to 18 inches of water flowed through the culverts. It should be noted that rainfall was 10 inches above normal for that area.
I had the temperature and water depth recorded but needed a background for reference. I learned that the DNR fisheries biologist for that area had retired, however, there was a study of Whirling Disease conducted on both Chippewa and Twin Creeks in July of 2000. I was able to obtain the report. Four DNR fisheries biologists conducted the study using backpack shocking equipment. What they found on both streams were impressive populations of both native brook and brown trout up to 20 inches, of various sizes and age classes, along with an abundance of crayfish and other fish species. They collected 20 trout from each stream from 4 to 8 inches for the study. As I waded the exact same section of Chippewa Creek that they had the water was ankle deep. From our research and observations, the dynamic aquatic ecosystem that was found in 2000 no longer exists.
A 2.5-page detailed report on our research of the two streams was sent to the MDEQ director. A reply was received from her.
A number of news media and others were notified of the results of our research in an effort to notify the public. It was distributed by Michigan Citizens For Water Conservation. FLOW (For The Love Of Water) based in Traverse City placed it on their website as an interview. Bill Parker, editor of Michigan Outdoor News published it in its entirety. Certainly, there would be outrage by the outdoors community. Wrong! Silence! After an article in the Cadillac News that stated, “Trout Unlimited Has No Problem With Nestlé’s Water Withdrawal”
I sent a letter to Michigan TU president Burroughs. He replied that TU had reviewed the data from Nestlé and had made that determination. A copy of the research report was sent to him. The result from TU? Silence! Both editors of the Cadillac News and Big Rapids Pioneer were sent copies of the research report. Result? Silence! Apparently, a foreign corporation that trashed two trout streams that have been in existence for thousands of years isn’t news. Or could it be the full page ads from Nestlé?
The Chippewa-Ottawa Resource Authority was contacted. No action from them. The Detroit Free Press was contacted. Never returned our phone call. A copy of research was sent to the executive director of Michigan United Conservation Clubs and a follow-up email to the deputy director. There was no response. We are a member. Perhaps it is time to part ways. Contacted Scott Heintzelman who is the chief MDNR fisheries biologist for the northern lower peninsula. He was asked to have the DNR take action on behalf of the fishery resource on the two streams. He has decided to defer to Nestlé.
TV 9&10 at Cadillac and TV 7&4 at Traverse City were both contacted and never contacted us in return. Garret Ellison of MLive was contacted by telephone. He requested a copy of the research. One was sent to him. No reply. Contact was made with David Fair of Western Michigan University Public Radio. No Response! We were advised to contact Marc Smith at the National Wildlife Foundation. Nothing there either! We were also advised to contact Oday Salin at the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center. A call was made to them three times only reaching an answering service who promised to call back. They never did!
I have written several times about AISI, it stands for Apathy, Ignorance, and Self-Interest. It is very much alive and thriving.