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February 17, 2016

Nestlé Pumps Millions of Gallons for Free while Flint Residents Pay Highest Fees in Country for Poisoned Water

Amy Goodman asks tough questions today on Democracy Now about who pays for water in Michicgan. See Michigan's Water Wars: Nestlé Pumps Millions of Gallons for Free While Flint Pays for Poisoned Water.

Her guests on the program are residents of Mecosta County, Michigan, who have engaged in a decade-long legal battle challenging permits issued to Nestlé, the largest water bottling company in the world, by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. The permits authorize Nestlé to take water from groundwater wells drawing on aquifers that feed Lake Michigan.

According to the program, DEQ issued permits in 2001 and 2002 to Nestlé to pump up to 400 gallons of water per minute (575,886 gallons of water per day) from its wells. Nestlé is not required to pay any fees to extract water from the Mecosta County aquifers besides a small permit processing fee and the cost of leases to a private landowner.

Not only is it receiving the water for free, Nestlé received $13 million in tax breaks from the state to locate a water bottling plant in Michigan.

Democracy Now notes that the spokesperson for Nestlé in Michigan is Deborah Muchmore, the wife of Dennis Muchmore. Until recently, Dennis Muchmore was Governor Rick Snyder’s chief of staff.

In contrast to the free water received by Nestlé, residents of Flint, Michigan pay so the highest fees in the country to use poisoned water from the Flint water system.

A survey of the 500 largest water systems in the United States, conducted last year, found that the water rates in Flint are the highest rates paid in the country. On average, Flint residents paid about $864 a year for water service, nearly double the national average and about three-and-a-half times the rates in Detroit. The United Nations recommends that water and sewer service shouldn't exceed 3% of a household income. In Flint, the charges totaled about 7%, said Mary Grant, one of the study's authors. See Flint residents paid America's highest water rates.

The situation in Michigan where Nestlé gets free water from aquifers in the Great Lakes watershed is similar to the situation in New York where DEC is issuing permits to take billions of gallons of water per day with no fees.

Posted by Rachel Treichler on 02/17/16, updated 04/29/16.



Copyright 2016, Rachel Treichler



About NY Water Law

New York Water Law covers legal developments relating to water usage in New York and in jurisdictions that may be influential in New York. The author, Rachel Treichler, practices law in the Finger Lakes region.
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