Friday, December 21, 2007

Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation Testifies at Congressional Hearing

Washington, DC – The House Subcommittee on Domestic Policy in Washington heard testimony on environmental impacts of water bottling and extractions on communities and the environment across the country. Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation’s (“MCWC”) president Terry Swier forcefully rebutted Nestle's claims. She pointed out that three courts have concurred that through the finding of fact Nestlé’s pumping has harmed public water resources and riparian rights. Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation has been battling Nestlé Waters North America and its Ice Mountain brand of spring water in Michigan for seven years.

In her testimony, Swier explained to the panel that Nestlé’s harm to a stream, two lakes, and wetlands was upheld in three courts in the case Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation v Nestlé Waters North America. The finding of fact that Nestle caused substantial harm at levels lower than it is pumping now was made by the Mecosta County Circuit Court and the Michigan Court of Appeals, and affirmed by the Michigan Supreme Court when it rejected Nestlé's argument that the findings were in error.

Jim Olson, legal counsel for MCWC, said, "Nestle witnesses evaded questions from Congressional panel about harm caused by Nestle's pumping for bottling operation in Michigan. Nestlé told the committee it had not caused harm to a stream in Michigan. In fact, three courts in Michigan, trial to the Supreme Court, have limited pumping in Michigan because Nestle has and continues to cause harm there.

During 19 days of trial given sound science, Nestlé’s pumping was found to have reduced stream flow by over 27% for a large stream segment, dropped levels by 2 to 4 inches, and dropped the levels of two lakes by 4 to 6 inches. During natural seasonal or cyclical lows, this makes the difference between public use, fishing, and the integrity of the stream or harm or loss of aquatic organisms.

Dr. David Hyndman, an expert in the Michigan case, explained to the panel, how the exposed bottomlands and harm to the stream shown in a picture to Nestlé's representative and the Subcommittee panel was caused by Nestlé's pumping during low flow periods or the summer growing season.

“Nestlé purports to being a “good neighbor” company to our area, yet it continued to pump at high rates during a long period of low precipitation and lower recharge. Even when bottomland and other dramatic impacts and damage to the Dead Stream, Thompson Lake, and wetlands have occurred, Nestlé has continued to pump,“ explained Swier.

The hearings are a start for the federal government to begin to look at the issues of environmental risks of the water bottling industry’s extraction of water.

For background on MCWC and the various lawsuits, water law disputes, Jim Olson’s summary of key points and comment on testimony, and Terry Swier’s testimony, see MCWC’s web site at

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