Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation (MCWC) ended its ten-year battle against Nestlé/Ice Mountain in 2009 and won. Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation (MCWC) began in late 2000, as a grass roots citizen organization, when citizens learned of Nestle/Perrier/Great Spring Waters of America/Ice Mountain’s spring water mining and pumping operation in Mecosta. It became clear that the Michigan Department for Environmental Quality (MDEQ) was not going to monitor adequately and Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation questioned the environmental impact of Nestlé/Ice Mountain in Mecosta, MI.
Traverse City environmental lawyer, Jim Olson, was hired to begin the legal action which resulted in a 19-day long trial in Circuit Court in 2003. Circuit Court Judge Lawrence Root then ruled the shut down of the Ice Mountain plant in Stanwood. Hallelujah. However, the court case was appealed to the Michigan Court of Appeals where MCWC won on the environmental harm facts of the case, but was told that the water interests of Nestle/Ice Mountain had to be balanced with the water interests of the riparian’s (landowners)! A final, out-of-court settlement was reached in 2009, whereby Nestle/Ice Mountain’s water pumping permit was reduced by almost half. Nestlé agreed to lower its spring pumping in Mecosta earlier in the spring during fish spawning and continue low pumping during the summer months to protect the already stressed stream and lake.
The spring water mining and pumping issue in Michigan involves two fundamental issues: (1) immediate environmental harm to rivers, streams, lakes, wetlands, and habitat in the zone of influence where the spring water pumping is occurring; and (2) the threat to the public trust doctrine (see the Michigan Constitution, Art. IV, Section 52) namely that the natural resources (including groundwater) of the state belong to the people of the state, because the bottling of Michigan spring water is the privatization of water for profit and diversion outside the Great Lakes basin.
Today, MCWC and its members remain very concerned about Michigan’s legal bottled water loophole and the threat of large-scale water diversions given the precedent set by Nestle/Ice Mountain’s operations. MCWC continues to represent our members as the board engages in researching and educating citizens on hydrofracking or fracking.