Judge to issue written opinion on Nestle lawsuit against Osceola Township

Posted at 8:15 PM, Nov 15, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-15 22:38:51-05

OSCEOLA COUNTY, Mich. -- The wait continues for water giant Nestle and the people who live in Osceola Township.

The company was hoping to double the water they pump from the township, but when the township rejected their permit for a new pumping station, Nestle sued.

The Mason County judge presiding over the lawsuit ended Wednesday's hearing saying she'll issue a written opinion on the matter, shortly after protesters lined the streets by the courthouse.

Protesters showed more than 100,000 signatures that Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation gathered in just a few days, urging Nestle to drop their lawsuit.  The protesters call it intimidation against the township.

In court, lawyers debated why the township planning commission denied Nestle's request for a permit to build a new pumping station in an agriculturally zoned district in April, which led to the suit.

"In order for Nestle to produce additional water as it has requested approval to do so with the state as well, it needs to have that booster pump connected to the pipeline," Nestle's lawyer Bill Horn said.

It's a pumping station Nestle needs to build if the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) approves their request to up their water extraction in Osceola Township and pump 400 gallons per minute for roughly the cost of a $200 permit.

"This is the same amount of water that they tried to draw from the well in Mecosta way back when this organization was formed," said Peggy Case, president of Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation. "The judge ruled that 400 gallons/minute was not sustainable and couldn't do it. They had to reduce it. So going 20 miles down the road and trying for 400 gallons/minute makes no sense whatsoever."

Others, like Osceola Township resident Rhonda Huff, say it's ruining the ecosystem.

"We've noticed a significant drop from the streams," Huff said. "They're both cold water trout streams, Chippewa and Twin Creek. We used to have eagles and ospreys all the time catching trout and things in the creek and pond there, and we've seen maybe two this year."

Nestle issued a statement calling Wednesday's hearing an important step, syaing they filed the appeal so an independent judge could review the decision that they're concerned about and believe they deserve a fair and impartial hearing.