My Thoughts on the Crisis in Flint, Michigan

The malpractice of improper water allocation and distribution in Flint, Michigan has been a very hot topic in American politics and environmental sustainability recently. Rightfully so, people are outraged and shocked by the decisions that their government has made concerning the well-being of their people and the corresponding quality  of the water. Unfortunately, there is a root issue at work in cases such as Flint, Michigan.

Democracy Now! got to this root issue in one of their stories about the water crisis in Flint.

In 2001 and 2002, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality issued permits to Nestlé, the largest water bottling company in the world, to pump up to 400 gallons of water per minute from aquifers that feed Lake Michigan. This sparked a decade-long legal battle between Nestlé and the residents of Mecosta County, Michigan, where Nestlé’s wells are located. One of the most surprising things about this story is that, in Mecosta County, Nestlé is not required to pay anything to extract the water, besides a small permitting fee to the state and the cost of leases to a private landowner. In fact, the company received $13 million in tax breaks from the state to locate the plant in Michigan.

Please keep in mind that this is not an isolated incident. Water systems across the United States are in danger of similar fates if diligent action is not taken. Water bottling companies are systematically endangering aquifers and water systems wherever they can get away with it. It would seem that they can get away with it because of their years of hard work to change the general public attitude towards water through their incredibly deceiving marketing campaigns.

Lack of strict, diligent regulations for water bottling and well drilling have provided comfortable loopholes for these companies to take advantage of ecosystems. They can generate huge profits regardless of the many and sometimes disasturous negative environmental impacts.

According to Bottlemania by Elizabeth Royte (a very great book about water bottles and the companies that bottle that water) the studies that are being conducted to determine the sustainability of groundwater pumping are not investigating the whole picture, for instance,

‘Poland Spring says their pumping will have no impact. That’s ludicrous. Every action in this ecosystem has an impact. But is it measurable or significant? It’s no impact only because of what they chose to measure. As far as I know, they did no dragonfly-population study, no sinkhole study; they didn’t do broad micro-invertebrate studies’

– Stefan Jackson, Director of the Saco River Project for the Nature Conservancy

Water bottle companies are exploiting communities, both human and wildlife. They are privatizing water for profit. They are lobbying to be in the back pockets of politicians. All the while, municipal water sources are being degraded and mismanaged.

So what can you do about it?!
Say no to bottled water! You have the power to say no, and that is the best way to start fighting these corporations and their disregard for the sanctity of life and clean water.

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