It’s head-scratching. Nestle, one of the largest bottled water producers in the world, who’s former CEO is an outspoken advocate of water privatization, has been pumping 150 million gallons of water out of Michigan each year. They have recently proposed an increase, to 400 million gallons per year and, until recently the residents didn’t know it.
When they found out, they lashed back. Not only did the company seek to more than double their water extraction from the state, but they offered to pay only $200 extra and a possible licensing fee for it.
It’s a state that is still reeling from the Flint water crisis, where residents were served leaden water, considered too toxic to drink, by a corrupt government that had attempted to cover it up. Now, as if to add insult to injury, more of Michigan’s clean water could be taken.
“Why on earth would the state of Michigan, given our lack of money to address water matters of our own, like Flint, even consider giving MORE water for little or no cost to a foreign corporation with annual profits in the billions?” a man from Ada, Michigan wrote to regulators.
“Please do not attempt to justify giving away our resources for the ‘benefit’ of Nestlé adding 20 more jobs,” he added.
The plant in question is located 120 miles from Flint.
“Please, please, please reconsider allowing Nestlé to pump additional gallons of water from their facility near Evart,” wrote a woman who identified herself as being from Newaygo, Michigan. “The rape of our Michigan inland fresh water sources is a cause for concern, especially when it is done by a private company for profit.”
Nearly 10 years ago, Nestle was sued by the citizens of Michigan in a similar situation and it seems that the citizens are justly upset. Jim Olson, the lawyer who represented the plaintiffs in the first case criticized regulators for not giving the public more notice of the new proposal.
“We’ve seen an erosion of public notices and more internal official decisions,” Olson said. “That’s at the heart of the Flint water crisis, and now we have the same kind of institutionalized expediency here.”
A final decision will be made on December 3 as to whether or not the proposal will go through.