Historic Judgment in Water Bottling Case

Historic Judgment in Water Bottling Case

The Great Lakes Aquatic Habitat Network and Fund commends the Mecosta County-based Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation (MCWC) and its legal team in protecting Michigan’s environment and its citizens property rights by winning the landmark law suit against the global water bottler Nestle/Great Spring Waters of North America – formerly known as Perrier.

49th Circuit Court Judge Lawrence Root carefully listened to nearly 20 days of extremely complex and consistently conflicting scientific argument, and waded through over 4,300 pages of evidence to rule on November 25, 2003 that “I have ordered the termination of all water withdrawals (by Nestle with 21 days) from the well field at the Sanctuary Springs (near Stanwood in Mecosta County).”

The judge found, in part, that wetlands at and downstream of the site, and public waterways flowing from the site, especially the Dead Stream, Thompson and Osprey Lakes, were shown by the plaintiffs to have already been impacted by preliminary water pumping during 2002 and 2003, and that these waters “would drop up to an additional six inches” if Nestle was allowed to pump up to its fully permitted volume.

The judge agreed with plaintiffs that three of the four wetlands monitored at the site had already been impacted, while most of the 41 wetlands at the Sanctuary remain unmonitored by Nestle. The judge noted the defendants’ “startling trial admissions” of these environmental effects while consistently denying any impact to wetlands, lakes, or streams during pre-trail testimony and since proposing the water withdrawal to state and local governmental officials in 2001.

The judge noted that Nestle’s experts were “having trouble accepting the reality I have found that pumping is having effects and will have effects to a greater extent in the future as pumping increases.”

GLAHNF has provided small grants to MCWC in support of its efforts, and congratulates the MCWC and the residents of Michigan in protecting the headwaters of the Little Muskegon River, downstream waters, and their crucial wetlands.

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Images courtesy of Steven Huyser-Honig,
West Grand Boulevard Collaborative, & Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve.