Nestle Waters North America, who is currently seeking to expand its water bottling operations in Michigan to additional sites, is affecting water treatment at Big Rapids’ wastewater treatment plant. According to an article published by the Associated Press, a preservative used in the “Splash” line of bottled water produced by Nestle is affecting the plant’s ability to kill bacteria in municipal wastewater before it is discharged into the Muskegon River. The chemical, potassium sorbate, is interfering with the ultraviolet disinfection system used by the plant and is bouncing UV light back to its originating lamps without it disinfecting the water. The problem was discovered back in October when the water treatment plant had a one-week violation of the maximum amount of fecal coliform bacteria that can be released in the Muskegon River.
The news comes a week after the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) tentatively approved a plan by Nestle to pump 216,000 gallons of water per day from springs that feed the Twin and Chippewa Creeks. The two creeks are both state-protected trout streams and both flow into the Muskegon River near Evart, with the water withdrawals expected to reduce the flow of the Muskegon River by 70 million gallons annually. Michigan’s recent water laws do not require Nestle to seek a permit as the water withdrawal is under 250,000 gallons per day and is more than 1,300 feet from the nearest surface water, but the company voluntarily sought the review with the goal of demonstrating their “commitment to the spirit and letter of Michigan’s new water withdrawal law and to the principles of scientific resource management.” The DEQ, using data compiled by the state and scientists working for Nestle, determined that as much as 691,200 gallons of water per day could be pumped without affecting fish populations. Of course, the DEQ completely ignored the issue of whether or not water, a necessity for life on the planet, should be sold for private profit by multinational corporations. Similarly unaddressed was the question of whether or not water exists as a “commons” held by all residents in Michigan or if it is something that can be sold for private gain.
The DEQ’s determination that there will be no adverse effects from the water withdrawal is open for public comment until January 15, 2007. Comments can be sent to [email protected] or via postal mail to Brant O. Fisher, Water Bureau, MDEQ, P.O. Box 30273, Lansing, Michigan 48909-7773. Nestle’s other proposed expansion near the headwaters of the White and Pere Marquette Rivers, will be the subject of a public hearing by Monroe Township officials on January 10 at 7:00pm. The hearing takes place at the township hall, located at 4141 E. Fillmore in Whitecloud.