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Nestle asks for permit to withdraw more water

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A global bottled water company is asking the state for permission to more than double how much water it’s withdrawing from the ground in west Michigan.

Nestle Waters is asking the state to set aside a seven-year-old agreement with environmental groups so it can add two production lines. That could boost its water withdrawal rate to 400 gallons a minute.

“What does this mean for the state of Michigan?,” wondered Jim Olson, a water rights attorney in Traverse City. “That’s a substantial amount of water.”

Olson, who is with the group For the Love Of Water (FLOW), says he’d like to see tighter controls over bottled water operations in the Great Lakes region. He’s concerned that an exemption that allows water bottlers to operate could eventually be extended to larger diversions.

A Michigan Department of Environmental Quality official says the state has to say OK if Nestle shows the larger withdrawals won’t affect nearby streams and wildlife. The DEQ’s Carrie Mona Smith says the department’s hearing from a lot of people who are against the new permit.

“People are very opposed to a company coming in and pulling what they feel are Michigan’s natural resources and making a profit on it,” she said.

Smith says the department has to grant the permit if Nestle shows the larger withdrawals won’t affect nearby streams and wildlife. The DEQ has extended the public comment period into next year.