By Ken DeLaat
Here is a problem.
Regardless of how you might feel about our most precious resource being sucked out of the state to be sold for profit around the world, what just happened is a problem.
As I understand it, Nestle wanted to pump more water out of the Evart Ice Mountain site. To go from 150 gallons per minute (3 shifts I assume?) to 400 gallons per minute and applied to do so through the appropriate channels at the DEQ.
Seeking public opinion on the matter the DEQ received plenty of it. Absolute volumes.
And while their press release recognizes that the majority of the public comments received were in opposition of the permit, it fails to mention it was an overwhelming majority. If it had been an election it would have resulted in a dominant landslide for the no’s the proportions of which would make the recent Russian balloting look like a cliffhanger.
However it didn’t count in the end because the legal scales were already tipped in the direction of the company seeking to nearly triple the 150 gallons per minute currently being taken.
Not by the company, but by boneheaded legislatures in the past and present who either by design or not left loopholes in their oft-amended in recent years, “Safe Drinking Water Act’ (notice how these things never reflect the reality, like “The Permission To Sell Off Our Natural Resources Act”).
A bevy of loopholes that apparently ties the hands of the DEQ who, by the way, in the same press release asked for folks to think kindly toward them even after getting…. uh..,,hosed, I guess would be the word.
“We are hopeful that whether residents agree with the Nestlé permitting decision or not, they will acknowledge and respect the work that MDEQ staff did to thoroughly and conscientiously apply the law in reviewing the permit.”
Yeah, sure, you got my respect all right, hiding behind your bureaucratic rationalizations and playing the public as a fool for thinking a massive turnout of citizens against this action would even raise an eyebrow in that cavern of incompetency known as Lansing.
This has been coming for awhile, ever since the state first started allowing private industries to dip into our water resources for, and get this, a grand total of $200 per year.
Yep, that’s it.
That’s what the state, with their brilliant accounting geniuses, has allowed to have happen. A company ponies up a 5 grand application fee then gets to draw out water for eternity at 200 smackers a year.
My previous ranting about the ham-handed response to the Line 5 disaster-in-waiting by the Guv aside, and the very fact that this law ties the hands of the people, not the DEQ since they’re just the bureaucratic messenger boy (yeah truly no respect there folks, I just can’t muster it up) the reasons behind this law in its amended form seem a bit like lunacy to me and reinforce my long held opinion of those Lansingites who are truly the ones chowing down at the public trough.
And believe me it is not a high opinion.
The DEQ needs to change their name because they are apparently unable to actually protect environmental quality and the Lansing folks need to get their heads out of their behinds when it comes to safeguarding our resources. The state government has not yet displayed anything that allows me to have a shred of confidence in anything they do in this regard or seemingly with anything that has to do with water..
And once again. Just to be clear when it comes to the DEQ?
Anyone with a little backbone might have taken to heart the outpouring of opposition and kicked this back to the legislature saying ‘do something with this’.
Except the way the scales are tipped? All the time?
They could hide behind the fact they weren’t allowed to.
And that aforementioned real problem we have?
A total unequivocal lack of any true leadership and a dearth of anything resembling statesmanship or courage anywhere in the capital city.
Here’s the press release in its entirety:
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) today announced its decision to grant Nestlé Waters North America, Inc. (Nestlé) a permit to increase its groundwater withdrawal for the purpose of bottling drinking water. The permit was issued today.
“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,” said C. Heidi Grether, director of MDEQ. “We are hopeful that whether residents agree with the Nestlé permitting decision or not, they will acknowledge and respect the work that MDEQ staff did to thoroughly and conscientiously apply the law in reviewing the permit.”
The MDEQ determined the application meets the requirements for approval under Section 17 of the Michigan Safe Drinking Water Act, 1976 PA 399, as amended (Act 399), which is required to produce bottled drinking water if the water is from a new or increased large-quantity withdrawal of more than 200,000 gallons of water per day from the waters of the state.
“In full transparency, majority of the public comments received were in opposition of the permit, but most of them related to issues of public policy which are not, and should not be, part of an administrative permit decision. We cannot base our decisions on public opinion because our department is required to follow the rule of law when making determinations,” Grether added.
Nestlé now has to prepare a monitoring plan consistent with the requirements of the permit and submit it to MDEQ for consideration and approval. Once the monitoring plan is in place and baseline data is collected, Nestlé is authorized to begin withdrawing water at a rate up to 400 gallons per minute from White Pine Springs well located near Evart, Michigan.
Nestlé submitted its permit application to MDEQ in July 2016. A team of technical experts from MDEQ conducted a thorough review of the application and required Nestlé to submit extensive additional information during the more than 20 month review process. The MDEQ also held public meetings, extended the public comment period for a total of 214 days and held several consultations and a technical review with Michigan’s Tribal Nations to discuss the application and answer questions from the Tribal Council.
To view the permit or for more information and background, visit www.michigan.gov/deqnwna.
In regards to fees, Nestlé is required, and has paid, the $5,000 application fee under Section 17. In addition, an annual reporting fee of $200 per withdrawal site/facility is required under Part 327, Great Lakes Preservation, of the NREPA, 1994 PA 451, as amended. In this specific case, because the withdrawal is an increase over an existing withdrawal, Nestlé has already been paying the annual fee for the site and will be required to continue to pay it as long as the withdrawal is active.
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