Brooks filled with trout are now empty 15 years after Nestlé pumped groundwater underneath
Less than 20 years ago, Michigan’s Chippewa and Twin Creek were stuck with trout. There was nothing last summer.
Nestlé has absorbed nearly 2 billion gallons of water from below in the past 15 years, according to the Defense Council for Natural Resources.
Despite its name, there are no mountains near the NESTLÉ spring water source “Ice Mountain”. Bottled water is pumped from wells beneath streams and wetlands between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.
Nestlé has been pulling 250 gallons per minute from the bottom of the streams since the early 2000s, and soon that number will rise by 400 gallons per minute.
That’s 200 million gallons of free water a year that the state of Michigan gives to a private, for-profit company for just $ 200.
The cost to local ecosystems is priceless.
According to the Defense Council for Natural Resources, trout can no longer be found in streams that were previously known for their trout.
Citizens and local scientists have been measuring the water levels in the streams since Nestlé arrived at the site as neither Nestlé nor the state monitored them.
It’s low and sinking every month, says Jim Maturin, 83, a retired attorney who takes measurements along Chippewa Creek as well as the North Branch Chippewa River.
Maturin says he didn’t see any trout in the river last summer. Environmental quality management records confirm the existence of trout 18 years ago.
Retired school teacher Marianne Borden has photos that document the changes in Twin Creek.
“It’s not the same as the stream,” she told AFP. It is “narrower and warmer” compared to the “cold biting” water of her youth.
“Trout cannot survive in it because the water is much warmer,” she said.
“If you look at these sewers, they are a historic landmark,” said Tim Ladd, Osceola City Manager.
“You don’t have to be a geologist or a hydrologist to see these water levels,” he added. “The water level in the lake is lower today than it was two years ago.”
Michigan received more than 80,000 comments against Nestlé’s request to increase its provisions to 400 gallons per minute, but it agreed.
The citizens of Osceola are ready to sue.
This is not the first time they have looked at Nestlé.
Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation sued the company in 2001 when residents of neighboring Mycosta County worried how pumping groundwater would turn the dead stream and wetland into the same watershed as the city of Osikola.
Residents won the case and Nestlé had to stop pumping temporarily. After Nestlé appealed, a judge ruled in 2009 that the company could pick up an average of 218 gallons per minute instead of the original 400 gallons allowed.
State Senator Rebecca Warren, D-Ann Arbor, was disappointed with the environmental quality department’s approval.
“The people of Michigan know that no private company should be able to make a profit by undermining our state’s precious natural resources,” she told the Detroit Free Press.