Planning commission rejects Nestle pumping station

Nestle, Ice Mountain, bottled water
Nestle Ice Mountain water pumped from groundwater and bottled near Evart, Mich.

EVART, Mich. (WOOD) — Nestle says it is evaluating other options after the Osceola Township Planning Commission voted down a building permit as part of the company’s goal to pump more groundwater from a well north of Evart.

Tuesday evening, the planning commission unanimously denied granting Nestle Waters North America, Inc. a permit to build the new pumping station on the Spring Hills Camps property. Nestle wants that station so it can draw some 400 gallons of groundwater per minute and increase production at its nearby Ice Mountain bottled water plant.

Commissioners heard public comment at a meeting at Evart Middle School and met in private with their attorney for between 20 and 25 minutes. They then returned to open session with their decision.

The commission said it felt Nestle did not demonstrate that the pumping station would meet the two requirements for approval: public necessity and public convenience, Osceola Township supervisor Tim Ladd told 24 Hour News 8.

Currently, the company is approved to pump 250 gallons per minute. There has been staunch opposition from many community members and environmental activists to the proposed increase.

Nestle released the following statement following Tuesday night’s decision:

“While we are disappointed by the Planning Commission’s decision regarding Ice Mountain’s planned booster station, we respect their decision. We do believe the plan we proposed satisfies all applicable zoning standards.

“The proposed booster station, a small 12-foot by 22-foot building, is designed to house a booster pump that will increase pressure along the water pipeline to transport additional water if the increase in withdrawal capacity at the White Pine Springs well is approved by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

“In evaluating our various options, our goal was to reduce, as much as possible, the impact to the local community and environment. The installation of the booster pump was preferable since it has less of an impact than the alternatives of either constructing a second water pipeline or using tanker trucks to transport the additional water. By proposing to house the booster pump equipment inside a small structure, the volume of noise generated by the pump is significantly reduced. Our proposal to construct the structure in an open grass area away from any surface water areas further reduces potential environmental impacts. If approved, Ice Mountain will obtain and comply with a soil erosion and sedimentation control permit, and restore any disturbed areas upon completion of construction.

“The booster pump building also will add to the Township’s tax base. This is in addition to the positive economic impacts of our operations. Since beginning our operations, Ice Mountain has made capital investments exceeding $250 million, has maintained an annual payroll of over $19 million, employs approximately 270 full time employees (with 51 living in or near Osceola Township), pays over $1.3 million annually in taxes and buys over $20 million in products and services annually from Michigan-based vendors.

“Ice Mountain has been a good neighbor and community partner to Osceola Township for over 15 years. During that time, we have enjoyed a positive working relationship with the residents and local leaders and it is our hope to build on this good relationship as we move forward in this process.”

Nestle can appeal the planning commission’s decision to the township Board of Appeals, so it’s possible the project may still move forward. However, the plan would still need approval by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.