Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s decision to close the last four free bottled water sites in Flint converged on the state Capitol to demand better efforts to provide clean water.
More than 50 people invaded the House of Representatives when it was in session Wednesday, chanting: “Do your job. Open the pods.” Capitol security officers evicted the protesters.
Flint has for years been dealing with a man-made, lead-tainted drinking water crisis that threatened the health of its residents. Snyder announced the closure of the final four distribution points last week, declaring the city’s “water system is stable.”
The protesters also condemned their representative, Democrat Sheldon Neeley, saying he should be voted out of office because he’s not doing enough to fight for clean water in the city.
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has approved a permit for Nestle to increase the volume of water it pumps from its well in Osceola County from 250 gallons per minute to up to 400 gallons per minute.
More than 80,000 people spoke out against Nestle’s permit request, but the MDEQ said it cannot base its decision on public opinion.
This Week in Review, Weekend Edition host Rebecca Kruth and senior news analyst Jack Lessenberry discuss potential political blow-back that could stem from the state’s approval of Nestle’s permit.
Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has given Nestle permission to extract 400 gallons (1,500 liters) of water per minute for its Stanwood bottling plant, in the face of a sustained protest campaign.
“We cannot base our decisions on public opinion because our department is required to follow the rule of law when making determinations,” DEQ Director Heidi Grether said in a statement, explaining that DEQ’s approval followed “the most extensive analysis of any water withdrawal in Michigan history.”
Nestle applied to increase its allocation from 250 to 400 gallons per minute back in 2016 and, during the review process, DEQ received 80,945 comments opposing the development and only 75 in favor. As well as voicing environmental concerns, many were outraged that Nestle, like other bottling plants, does not have to pay for the water itself, providing it pays for the pumps.
Nestle has a reputation worldwide for going into rural communities, offering all kinds of economic benefits that never really materialize, taking as much water as they can get, and when the stream runs dry, they leave,” Peggy Case, President of the Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation group, told RT.
Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation believes that noticeable depletion occurs even at 150 gallons per minute and, partly as a result of pressure, Nestle will be obliged to perform “continuous streamflow monitoring,” and halt if the water level drops.