The Guardian reports that just a few miles from Flint, Michigan, which is still reeling from a lead water crisis, the giant food conglomerate Nestle has been paying the ridiculous sum of $200 a year to siphon municipal water and sell hundreds of thousands of plastic bottles of water at a $1 plus a pop.
In a recent permit application, the company asked to pump 210 million gallons per year from the town of Evart, a 60% increase, and for no more than it pays today. In the coming months, the state is set to decide whether Nestlé can to pump even more.
Activists see Nestlé’s bottling plant and Flint’s tainted water and Detroit’s mass water shutoffs as connected – part of an “ecosystem” meant to put water into private hands.
Nestlé had $92bn in sales in 2016, and $7.4bn from water alone. Nevertheless, the company pays nothing for the 150 gallons per minute it already pumps from the ground in central Michigan. The $200 per year is just an administration fee.
Last year a federal judge ruled that a permit allowing Nestle to pipe water out of the San Bernardino National Forest was still valid, despite the fact that the permit listed 1988 as the expiration date and was never renewed. The decision was a major blow for environmental groups that sued in an effort to stop Nestle from siphoning water out of public lands then sell it back to the public as bottled water.
Nestle pays an annual permitting fee of $524 for permission to run its pipeline. The company piped an estimated 36 million gallons from the forest in 2015.
“Nestlé has been pulling a fast one for nearly 30 years, taking a public resource, depriving plants and animals of life-sustaining water, and selling that water at an obscene profit without the right to do so, but apparently our justice system is OK with that,” said Eddie Kurtz, executive director of the Courage Campaign Institute.
Also last year Nestle outbid a small town in Ontario, Canada to buy rights to a spring water well in their region.
In August consumers filed a class action lawsuit against Nestle alleging the company’s Poland Spring Bottled Water is “a colossal fraud.” They claim that “not one drop” of the water complies with the Food and Drug Administration’s definition of what constitutes spring water, and instead is ground water. They point out that Poland Spring in Poland Spring, Maine, “ran dry nearly 50 years ago.”
“They have the worst track record of any water bottler internationally,” said Julia DeGraw, with Food & Water Watch.
Nestlé currently controls more than 70 of the world’s bottled water brands including Arrowhead, Calistoga, Deer Park, Perrier, Poland Spring and Ice Mountain.