Nestle Waters’ bottled water does not meet the definition of an “essential service,” according to a decision Tuesday from the Michigan Court of Appeals.
The ruling overturns a lower court's 2017 decision requiring Osceola Township to give Nestle a permit to build a booster pumping station. The company pursued the pump as part of efforts to increase water withdrawals in the region.
Nestle has pursued both a state permit to increase water withdrawals and a permit from Osceola Township for the booster pumping station. The state permit has been approved but is being contested.
At issue was whether Nestle’s bottling operation met the standard of an “essential service.” If it did, Osceola township would have been wrong to deny Nestle a permit.
The 2017 decision found that water was essential to human life - and that made Nestle’s bottling operation an “essential service.”
Bill Fahey is a representative for Osceola Township. He said the appeals court overturned that decision, finding that selling water for profit did not represent an “essential service.”
“In their view bottled water was not essential. Period.”
Fahey said the appeals court decision is a win for the Township.
“Compared to where we were after the circuit court it’s 180 degrees.”
Fahey said it’s possible the decision could have implications for the state permit for increasing water withdrawals, which is currently being contested and is awaiting a decision from an Administrative Law Judge.
“The court made a determination here that Nestle’s water well is not a public water supply under the Safe Drinking Water Act. That could have a significant effect on Nestle’s application that is pending before EGLE.”
A spokesperson for EGLE did not respond to our request for comment on this issue.
A spokesperson for Nestle Waters said the company is disappointed with the decision and will evaluate possible next steps in the legal process.
The spokesperson said the goal of the company has always been to reduce any impact to the local community and environment.
You can read their full statement below:
Nestlé Waters North America (NWNA) is disappointed in the Michigan Court of Appeals ruling, which reversed the decision of the Circuit Court. 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. We will evaluate our possible next steps in the legal process.
From the beginning, our goal with this request has been to reduce, as much as possible, any impact to the local community and the environment. In addition, the structure would be a positive contribution and would provide additional tax revenue to Osceola Township. Nestlé Waters has worked to be a good neighbor to Osceola Township for over 17 years. We value our relationships with Township residents and community leaders, and always strive to create shared value within the communities where we operate.
EDIT 12/4: A previous version of this story noted that Nestle "required" a permit from Osceola Township to increase water withdrawals. A Nestle spokesperson has said they do not require a permit from Osceola Township to increase withdrawals. The company is looking at other options for transporting aditional water but would not say what those are.
EDIT 12/5: A previous version of this story claimed that the ruling would "block" Nestle's water withdrawals. The ruling only impacts Nestle's efforts to get a permit from Osceola Township for a booster pump to transport water. The story has been updated to reflect this.