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Nestle Bottled Water Pump Blocked by Michigan Court (Corrected)

Dec. 3, 2019, 8:58 PMUpdated: Dec. 4, 2019, 3:02 AM

A small Michigan township defeated international food and beverage giant Nestle in a court battle over whether the company can install a high-capacity well pumping station that would help top off thousands of Ice Mountain water bottles.

A three-judge Michigan Court of Appeals panel ruled Dec. 3 that Nestle’s planned pumping station in Osceola Township didn’t meet an exception to local zoning rules.

Nestle, the world’s largest food and beverage company, issued a statement saying it’s evaluating its next legal steps, which may include a discretionary appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court.

The court held that a planned pumping station development in a township area zoned for agriculture didn’t meet the “essential service” exception to the local zoning law. The development, opposed by the township and environmental activists, would help Nestle at a nearby operations where the company intends to increase withdrawal capacity from 250 gallons per minute to 400 gallons per minute—allowing it to withdraw 576,000 gallons per day.

“Bottled water is not essential,” William Fahey, the township’s attorney, said during oral argument. “We’re talking about electricity, public water, sewer, those kinds [of] basic needs by the public, that are meant to be accommodated there.”

Local residents have raised concerns that Nestle’s wells could decrease water levels in local streams used for recreation and fishing.

William Horn, attorney for Nestle, said during oral argument that the township was trying to unfairly shoehorn the company into this exception, and argued that the lower court’s decision upholding the company’s ability to build the pumping station was proper.

“We firmly believe that the Circuit Court was correct in ordering Osceola Township to issue a permit for our request to build a small, 12-foot by 22-foot building, to house a booster pump. We believe the plan we proposed met the Township’s site plan and special land use standards,” said Arlene Anderson-Vincent, natural resource manager of Nestle Waters North America, in a statement.

The case is: Nestlé Waters North American Inc. v. Osceola Township, Mich. Ct. App., No. 341881, opinion 12/3/19.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Ebert in Columbus, Ohio at aebert@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Gregory Henderson at ghenderson@bloombergenvironment.com; Chuck McCutcheon at cmccutcheon@bloombergenvironment.com