Thursday October 19, 2017

Michigan lawmaker wants to charge Nestlé $20M a year for water extraction

A Michigan lawmaker is proposing a fee of five cents per gallon for bottled water companies operating in the state.

A Michigan lawmaker is proposing a fee of five cents per gallon for bottled water companies operating in the state. (CBC)

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A Michigan lawmaker wants big companies like Nestlé to pay up for the millions of gallons of water they're extracting from a state still dealing with the ramifications of a deadly water crisis.

"We all have to live here after Nestlé is done poaching the water, and I don't think it's fair, I don't think it's right," Peter Lucido, the Republican representative for Detroit, told As It Happens host Carol Off.

Lucido has proposed a bill that would levy a five cents per gallon (3.8 litres) on bottled water companies operating in the state.

Nestlé opposes the fee, saying it sustains hundreds of jobs in Michigan while being responsible for a small fraction of the state's water usage. It currently pays a $200 US per year paperwork fee for each facility it operates in the state. 

Under Lucido's proposal, Nestlé would have to fork over $20 million US a year for the 1.1 million gallons (4.2 million litres) of water it currently takes out of the ground in Michigan each day and sells under its Ice Mountain brand.

"They're selling it in different states in the U.S. and even in Canada," Lucido said.

"It doesn't make sense when we've got infrastructure failure. It doesn't makes sense when we've got lake problems, river problems, we have contamination going on."

The money, he said, would go towards a fund to maintain water infrastructure and clean up lakes and rivers.

"That money is going to get locked down, tied down, chained down for one purpose and one purpose only," he said. "Never, never will this ever be touched other than for the purposes of the most scared resource we have, which is water."

Lucido said that fund would benefit the people of Flint, a city still reeling from a deadly lead contamination crisis while a few hours away in Evart, Nestlé extracts millions of litres of pristine water from the ground.

Flint Water Three Years

Flint, Mich., residents chant in unison with nearly 100 others protesters demanding answers and solutions to the city's water crisis woes on April 25, 2017/ (Jake May/The Flint Journal-MLive.com/AP)

The company has also come under fire in Canada for extracting water in B.C. during a 2015 drought and outbidding an Ontario municipality for a well it intended to use to supply residents with clean drinking water. 

The amount bottled water companies pay in Cananda for extraction varies between provinces. Ontario raised its fee in August from $3.71 for every million litres of groundwater taken to $503.71. 

B.C. charges $2.50 for every million litres, Quebec charges $70 and Newfoundland and Labrador recently introduced a $500 fee.

There are 71 long-term drinking water advisories — in existence for a year or more — in First Nations communities across Canada.

Nestle assembly line

One-litre bottles of springwater move along an assembly line by the thousands inside Nestle's Aberfoyle bottling plant in Ontario. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

In a statement e-mailed to As It Happens, Nestlé called the proposed levy "inappropriate" and said its extraction accounts only for 0.01% of water used in the state, where it employs 765 people. 

"Water is a renewable resource when managed responsibly, and sustainable water management is at the core of Nestlé Waters' operations. Michigan's abundant water supports jobs across numerous farms and industries in the state," Arlene Anderson-Vincent, natural resources manager of Ice Mountain Natural Spring Water, said.

"It would be inappropriate for the state to impose an excise tax on just one type of water user."