CADILLAC — Should Nestlé and the bottled water industry be allowed to send water it pumps and bottles in Michigan to customers outside of the Great Lakes watershed?
Some downstate lawmakers say no, and have introduced legislation to block the practice as well as “designate groundwater as part of the public trust,‘ MLive reported.
Local lawmakers — who, unlike the legislations’ sponsors, are all Republicans — are not lining up in support of the proposal.
Rep. Daire Rendon, R-Lake City, put it simply.
“I am a no,‘ she texted the Cadillac News.
Sen. Curt Vanderwall, R-Ludington, said in a text message that he would read about it but he was very concerned. He followed up moments later with a phone call.
Vanderwall said he was concerned about the provision to keep bottled water in Michigan.
“Where do you stop?‘ he questioned, then cited Coca-Cola, candy makers and other industries. “I’m concerned about some of those rules.‘
Rep. Michele Hoitenga, R-Manton, said she wanted to read the bill package first before she commented.
Nestlé emailed a statement that said the proposed package of bills “unjustly targets the bottled water industry.‘
“According to data compiled by Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE), Michigan’s nearly 40 bottled water companies account for less than .01% of water used in the state,‘ a company spokesperson said in the emailed statement. “Our water use in Michigan ranks us far down on the list of the state’s top water users.‘
The company linked to a Michigan.gov document that listed steel, mining, paper and salt (among other companies) as well as two farms that are the top water users in Michigan.
“We understand water is an emotional issue, and we appreciate the passion people everywhere have about it,‘ the spokesperson went on to say. “Since we came to Michigan more than 17 years ago, we have been a strong supporter of laws that protect the environment, and we continue to be committed to ensuring the sustainability of Michigan’s natural resources. Water is a renewable resource when managed responsibly, and sustainable water management is at the core of Nestlé Waters’ operations.‘
The environmental group Clean Water Action, which was not involved in the drafting of the legislation but did see a copy of it before it was introduced, is supporting the bill package.
“Michigan is home to 21% of the world’s fresh surface water. It is our state’s great responsibility to protect and preserve this natural resource for the public benefit, not for private profit,‘ said Mary Brady-Enerson, Michigan director of Clean Water Action, in a statement posted online. “The legislation introduced today would strengthen public trust protections and close the water-bottling loophole in the Great Lakes Compact, ensuring the people of Michigan, not companies like Nestle, get to decide how our waters are used.‘
The Cadillac News asked Sean McBrearty, Clean Water Action’s Michigan Legislative and Policy Director, whether he thought the bill, sponsored by three Democrats, would ever come to a vote or get a hearing.
“Over 80,000 Michigan residents made public comments about the last Nestlé water withdrawal increase permit,‘ McBrearty said. “It really ought to get a hearing.‘