In October 2014, General Motors recognized the Flint water was corroding its engines. They got permission from the city’s unelected emergency manager—who was appointed by Republican Governor Rick Snyder—to disconnect from Flint’s water and go back to Detroit water. It would be another year before the people of Flint were finally allowed to disconnect from the corrosive Flint River as their water supply and hook up again to the Detroit water system. By then, the Flint River water had corroded the city’s aging pipes, poisoning the drinking water with lead, which can cause permanent developmental delays and neurological impairment, especially in children. We speak with a GM autoworker in Flint about the company’s actions once it realized that Flint’s water was corroding car engines.
As Flint residents are forced to drink, cook with and even bathe in bottled water, while still paying some of the highest water bills in the country for their poisoned water, we turn to a little-known story about the bottled water industry in Michigan. In 2001 and 2002, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality issued permits to Nestlé, the largest water bottling company in the world, to pump up to 400 gallons of water per minute from aquifers that feed Lake Michigan. This sparked a decade-long legal battle between Nestlé and the residents of Mecosta County, Michigan, where Nestlé’s wells are located. One of the most surprising things about this story is that, in Mecosta County, Nestlé is not required to pay anything to extract the water, besides a small permitting fee to the state and the cost of leases to a private landowner. In fact, the company received $13 million in tax breaks from the state to locate the plant in Michigan. The spokesperson for Nestlé in Michigan is Deborah Muchmore. She’s the wife of Dennis Muchmore—Governor Rick Snyder’s chief of staff, who just retired and registered to be a lobbyist. We speak with Peggy Case, Terry Swier and Glenna Maneke of Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation.