The water crisis in Flint, Michigan has been in the public eye for months with many expressing outrage at how something as dangerous as lead poisoning could go unnoticed for so long in what is supposedly one of the world’s “most developed” nations. Yet, despite the public outrage, Flint residents are still being forced to rely on bottled water for their daily needs as Michigan’s state government has taken incompetence to a new level by delaying and hampering efforts to replace the town’s lead-leaching and corroded pipes that have been poisoning its water supply. Detroit, Michigan is also suffering as the city government continues to shut off the tap water of its poorest residents, impacting hundreds of thousands. Now, Nestle, the world’s largest food company, aims to compound the suffering of Flint, Michigan by tripling the amount of groundwater they pump from a nearby aquifer with the full support of Michigan’s state government.
Earlier this month, the State of Michigan issued preliminary approval for Nestle to greatly increase the amount of groundwater it pumps to be bottled and sold at its Ice Mountain plant, only 120 miles from Flint. Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) granted Nestle permission to increase groundwater pumping from 150 to 400 gallons per minutes. To make matters worse, Nestle will be permitted to pump the extra water at no additional cost. Michigan law allows private property owners to withdraw from any aquifer under their property free of charge, requiring them to only pay a $200 annual paperwork fee. In Michigan’s case, the interstate Great Lakes compact would normally prevent the sales of the bottled water outside of the region, but an exemption allows the water to be exported and sold anywhere if the size of the bottles are under 5.7 gallons.
Nestle has made a habit out of robbing communities of their own water supplies, all in the name of corporate greed. Their pumping of mineral water often involves the abuse of vulnerable water resources in the US and abroad, leading to massive aquifer depletion and long-term damage. In the area near Flint, Michigan, Nestle’s plant has pumped over 3.4 billion gallons of water in just ten years, causing local activists to question how much more the aquifer can handle, especially with the planned increase. However, this is likely to be of little concern to Nestle’s CEO Peter Brabeck-Letmathe who is on record saying that access to water is not a human right, and that the world’s water resources should be privatized as it is best “valued” by the free market. Brabeck’s barbarism is now the “new normal” in the state of Michigan, showing that the government values corporations over its own people even in the face of widespread suffering and poisoned water. Resources essential to life must be protected and controlled by the people, not sociopaths running the world’s largest corporations.
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