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EGLE dismisses case contesting Nestlé water withdrawal permit

November 20, 2020 

EGLE finds no basis for contested case under Safe Drinking Water Act, welcomes legislative review of law and calls for royalties

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) today announced that it has dismissed a case challenging the permit issued to Nestlé Waters North America in 2018 for increased water withdrawals from its bottled water facility in Osceola County.

EGLE found that the Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation and the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians erred in not appealing the permit directly to circuit court. 

On April 24, 2020, an administrative law judge found that Nestle’s permitted withdrawals are reasonable under the current state law and include adequate monitoring and safeguard measures to ensure protection of the state’s water resources.

“EGLE remains committed to protecting our state’s valuable water resources, but as a regulatory agency we must act within our statutory authority,” said EGLE Director Liesl Clark.  “The Safe Drinking Water Act only allows EGLE to hold contested case hearings under very limited circumstances which are not present in this case.”

Issued during the former administration by EGLE’s predecessor agency, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, the Nestlé permit represents the most intensely scrutinized permit in the agency’s history. The company’s operations in Osceola County are also the most intensively monitored water withdrawals in the state. EGLE’s extensive monitoring of the site, along with data from the United States Geological Survey stream gauge, provides a high level of certainty that water resources in the area are actively monitored and protected.

Many of the public comments received by EGLE expressed concern that Nestlé was not required to pay a fee for its withdrawal of groundwater. The law currently does not allow EGLE to charge a fee for groundwater withdrawals intended for bottled water.

“We appreciate the calls from the petitioners and other members of the public for water withdrawal royalties on bottled water payable to the state, but that is currently outside of EGLE’s statutory authority,” Clark said. “EGLE supports the calls from lawmakers to take action to prevent private parties from profiting off our state’s water resources.”

Clark said EGLE would welcome legislative changes that would update regulations to give the agency more authority over water withdrawals for bottled water and royalties to compensate Michiganders for the commercial use of the state’s freshwater resources.

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