In another article, Representatives Rouda and Tlaib question the falsely-claimed and oft-touted “sustainability” of Nestle extractions:
“The Subcommittee is concerned that Nestlé is taking a critical public resource from communities in need without equitably reinvesting in those communities and ensuring long-term environmental sustainability,” Rouda and Tlaib wrote.
Exactly our sentiments, as Nestle wants to extract water from the Santa Fe River which is already deemed by the State as not meeting its flow levels.
Read the original article here in the Grand Rapids News.
Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
– A river is like a life: once taken,
it cannot be brought back © Jim Tatum
U.S. House Democrats launch probe into Nestle water bottling
U.S. House Democrats are seeking documents about Nestle Waters North America operations in Michigan and other states as part of a new Congressional oversight investigation launched this week into bottled water industry practices.
On Tuesday, March 3, U.S. Reps. Harley Rouda of California and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan sent Nestle a request for information about the company’s U.S. groundwater extraction, revenues from bottled water sales, advertising expenses, quality testing and plastic use.
The probe comes amid a growing environmental community pushback against the U.S. bottled water industry, marked by a proposed first-in-the-nation ban on permits for sourcing bottled water from natural sources that’s moving through the Washington state legislature.
Rouda and Tlaib, chair and vice chair of the House Oversight and Reform environment subcommittee, each represent a state where Nestle bottles vast amounts of groundwater. In their 5-page letter, they express concern about Nestle profiting from a public resource while nearby communities struggle with water use, access and quality.
“Both of us feel a responsibility as oversight committee members to ask these questions and get answers,” said Tlaib by phone on Wednesday.
The probe was born of constituent feedback from a September field hearing the two representatives held in Detroit, where “people kept bringing up Nestle.”
“Where my constituents are having their water shut off due to exorbitant bills, we have Nestle up the road profiting millions off the water my community is being denied,” Tlaib said.
The letter requests documents dating back to 2014 that include a list of all U.S. production wells, volumes of water extracted, revenues earned, internal communications about potential health risks and contaminant testing, money spent on product marketing and advertising, and annual totals for plastic used and planned for purchase in the next five years.
The letter says Nestle is benefitting from “low or no cost” permits to source raw production material. It notes the $200 per facility state paperwork fee that Nestle pays to extract water in Michigan, where regulators in 2018 approved the company’s request to extract more groundwater from the headwaters of two Osceola County trout streams.
The unpopular decision followed an avalanche of public opposition to the request. Nestle has yet to actually increase that extraction. The permit is being administratively challenged by a group called the Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation.
“When Flint, Michigan was in the midst of a lead contamination crisis, Nestlé continued to extract spring water from Michigan communities like Evart for the purpose of selling the water outside of the state, though this town was located just two hours from Flint,” the Democrats wrote. “In California, Nestlé has been criticized for extracting water for commercial purposes during periods of drought when Californians were ordered to reduce their water use.”
Tlaib said she’s also concerned about the safety of bottled water, citing studies that have shown troubling amounts of microplastics in some Nestle water products.
Nestle was given until March 17 to produce the requested documents.
Nestlé Waters North America, the global food and beverage giant’s U.S. bottling division, said it received the Congressional request and “will cooperate fully.”
In a lengthy statement, the company said it recognizes the “significant responsibility we have as a bottled water company to operate responsibly and sustainably today, and well into the future. We operate under the principles of putting our communities first, being good stewards of water and the environment, and promoting healthy hydration.”
Nestle said it support communities where it operates. In March, it announced $2 million in grants to support conservation projects in Michigan’s Muskegon River watershed. The company has been trying to combat negative perceptions through social media efforts and blog posts that portray Nestle as a responsible environmental steward with minimal impact.
“It would make absolutely no sense for Nestlé Waters to invest millions of dollars into local operations just to deplete the natural resources on which our business relies,” the company wrote in a statement to MLive.
Across the country, activists are pushing back against the ascendant industry. They typically cite depletion of natural resources and accumulating plastic waste from landfilling single-use bottles as unsustainable industry traits.
Democrats in Michigan have sought to limit the distribution of water bottled in state by removing an exemption in the Great Lakes Compact that currently allows companies like Nestle to ship bottled water outside the basin in small containers.
Nestle was recently dealt a legal setback in Michigan when the state appeals court said water bottled for profit is not an “essential public service” in a ruling that reversed a lower court decision, which had ordered Osceola Township to approve a controversial Nestle’s zoning request to build infrastructure needed to move more groundwater to market. Nestle is not appealing the ruling.
In Michigan, much of the opposition to Nestle’s extraction was out of concern for environmental impacts on the area watershed. However, the broader opposition was from people upset that Nestle could source groundwater at essentially no cost at the same time residents of Flint and Detroit have struggled with water safety and access….