As Nestlé Bottles Water Nearby, Flint Continues to Suffer
While the residents of Flint, Mich., still cannot use their tap water for drinking, bathing or even ironing, only hours away from the beleaguered city, Nestlé is bottling water for just $200 a year.
According to The Guardian:
Despite having endured lead-laden tap water for years, Flint pays some of the highest water rates in the US. Several residents cited bills upwards of $200 per month for tap water they refuse to touch.
But just two hours away, in the tiny town of Evart, creeks lined by wildflowers run with clear water. The town is so small, the fairground, McDonald’s, high school and church are all within a block. But in a town of only 1,503 people, there are a dozen wells pumping water from the underground aquifer. This is where the beverage giant Nestlé pumps almost 100,000 times what an average Michigan resident uses into plastic bottles that are sold all over the midwest for around $1.
To use this natural resource, Nestlé pays $200 per year.
The Flint water crisis started in 2014, when officials, in an effort to save money, switched the city’s water supply from nearby Detroit’s city water to water from the corrosive Flint river. After the switch, residents began complaining about the water, regarding its color, smell and hardness. (Hard water is water with a high mineral content.)
The discovery of dangerous bacteria in the water soon followed. And in February 2015 it was found that the percentage of children with elevated blood lead exposure had doubled; some of Flint’s water contained enough lead to make it almost three times as poisonous as the level considered hazardous waste.
According to the 2016 Census, Flint is one of the nation’s poorest cities. Residents are still unable to drink or bathe in the tap water and continue to report health problems. A recent study found fetal deaths in Flint had increased by 58 percent.
The Guardian reports that Nestlé wants more of Evart, Mich., water:
In a recent permit application, the company asked to pump 210m gallons per year from 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.
The proximity of the Nestlé plant to Flint’s degraded public water supply has some Michigan residents asking: why do we get undrinkable, unaffordable tap water, when the world’s largest food and beverage company, Nestlé, bottles the state’s most precious resource for next to nothing?
“It’s almost like a civics class for us Flint folks,” Flint resident Gina Luster told The Guardian. “You shouldn’t be able to profit off of water—it’s free. It came out of the ground.”
Chuck Wolverton, another Flint resident, added that bottled water is “a necessity of life right now.”
Politicians are also speaking out about the issue. Michigan state representatives, including Tim Sneller, asked the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) not to approve Nestlé’s permit. Sneller said, “Now, I firmly support economic development in our state, and I recognize the extent to which Nestlé Waters’ presence in Michigan has helped our economy, However, there needs to be a balance between the economic benefit of Nestlé and the responsibility of the MDEQ to protect Michigan’s environment and natural resources.”
Nestlé claims to maintain sustainable water practices, but plastic water bottles are creating a huge environmental problem.
What good is being the most powerful nation in the world if we can’t even get clean water to American citizens??
— Karen Attiah (@KarenAttiah) September 29, 2017
Many activists have noted similarities between Flint and Puerto Rico: Both are American communities in need of clean water and essential resources in a time of crisis.Wait, before you go…
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