Nestlé Waters, the water bottling branch of the Nestlé Group headquartered in Switzerland, has been granted permission to draw hundreds of gallons of water per minute from the Michigan state groundwater table and bottle it for profit without paying anything more than a permitting fee.
This comes despite the overwhelming evidence of the dangers of groundwater-related subsidence as well as the damning reality that the city of Flint, Michigan has now gone approximately 1,450 days without clean water.
This latest display of unrelenting capitalistic greed was met with a staggering number of public comments — 80,945 against the request and only 75 in favor.
Lindsey Smith, a reporter for Michigan Radio and The Environmental Report Podcast, described how Michigan state officials in the environmental quality department were forced to create categories to more efficiently organize the tens of thousands of comments.
The top three categories, she reports, received over 40,000 comments and included “[one,] corporate greed versus people and the environment; two, water is not for profit; and three, worries about privatizing water.”
The concerns surrounding the privatization of water are far too real in Michigan, which has recently announced that it will no longer provide free bottled water to Flint residents, citing studies that show that the city’s water has tested below federal limits for two years as justification for closing the four remaining distribution centers.
Although the city’s water has tested at satisfactory levels, there are still thousands of pipes within the city limits that have not yet been replaced and which still contain lead or galvanized steel.
“We did not cause the man-made water disaster, therefore adequate resources should continue being provided until the problem is fixed and all the lead and galvanized pipes have been replaced,” – Karen Weaver, Mayor of Flint Michigan
Operations to replace the pipes are estimated to last through 2020, with an estimated 12,000 still remaining.
This means that residents of Flint, Michigan face up to two years of drinking potentially unsafe water or shelling out hundreds if not thousands of dollars on groundwater from their own state that has been bottled by Nestle, for which the company pays only $200 a year.
This is a blatant, heartless, capitalistic scheme that puts profit before people and the environment.
Let’s break it down by the numbers.
The city of Flint, Michigan has an approximate population of 102,000. The average price for a 1.5 liter bottle of water in Flint is $2.25. The average individual in the U.S. uses approximately 340 liters of water every single day.
That means, in order to enjoy the same access to water as the rest of the U.S. on average, Flint residents would need to pay roughly $508.50 per person per day on bottled water alone.
That’s $185,602.50 per person per year in a state where the median household income is only $52,500.
That’s $18.9 billion for the year assuming all Flint residents spent the $508.50 each day on water.
And Nestle is paying $200 a year to bottle it.