Evart bottles Ice Mountain deal
By Sally Barber
Published March 29th, 2005
EVART - Evart city officials have approved a water purchase
deal with Nestle-owned bottler Ice Mountain, but environmental
groups hope state action will force a closer look at the
legalities of the measure.
The Evart City Council unanimously approved a 10-year
contract with Ice Mountain in a special council meeting
Monday. Although the town meeting hall was filled to standing
room only, and environmentalists have spoken out against
the deal, no one present objected.
The water contract consummates a plan almost a year in
development and negotiation. It allows for the sale of
spring water to the bottler from one of the town's eight
municipal wells. Ice Mountain plans to construct a pump
station and transport the water to its Stanwood bottling
facility by mid summer.
"As far as the city looks at it, they will be a
customer as anyone else and be on a rate schedule as any
residence or small business," said City Manager Roger
Municipal well No. 5 will be dedicated to Ice Mountain
with stipulations that the well could be reconnected to
the city system if circumstances required. It also stipulates
Ice Mountain could access other city spring-fed wells
if the dedicated well was for some reason unable to produce
the agreed-upon capacity. Well five is permitted to pump
500 gallons per minute. Ice Mountain has indicated it
will look at using 250 gallons per minute. The company
will pay the city a $200,000 establishment fee, as well
as associated construction and operational costs.
In order to provide for future city growth, and to ensure
compliance with Michigan Department of Environmental Quality
regulations, the city has approved installation of a ninth
well capable of producing 1,000 gallons per minute.
Other points outlined by the water agreement define access
to wells, upgrades to the exteriors of water system-related
buildings, landscaping, wellhead protection and security.
"Their security measures are higher than the city's
and they want the right to implement them," Elkins
Council also approved a General Development contract
outlining benefits of the partnership to the city, including
improvements to wellhead protection, relocation of the
Department of Public Works, new recreational facilities
for the school district, fairground improvements and the
possibility of locating a permanent bottling plant in
When negotiations began a year ago, Elkins said Nestle
told the city they were willing to pick up the costs for
relocating facilities, but they "made it clear it
is not an open-ended checkbook." Elkins said the
general agreement does not provide specific financial
commitments on the part of Nestle and those details are
still to be worked out.
"This is a very important next step in the project,"
said Deb Muchmore, spokeswoman for Ice Mountain. "It's
probably the most significant of the agreements."
The two contracts approved Monday are contingent on agreements
between Ice Mountain and Evart School district and Osceola
Fair Board approved earlier this month. Those contracts
outline property transfers, construction of new ball fields
and practice fields, and improvements to Thompson Park.
Relocation of facilities promotes Ice Mountain's intention
to protect the water source in the area and provide green
space. Construction on the fair and school projects will
get under way this spring and be available for use in
However beneficial the deals are for the community, environmental
groups across the state are objecting to the Evart/Nestle
arrangement on the basis that the commercialization of
the water resource could lower water levels, damage fisheries
and impact the integrity of the Great Lakes. They say
the agreement between Nestle and the city of Evart allows
for the sale of water outside of the Great Lakes Basin
and as such is unlawful without a review by the seven
other Great Lakes States, under the Water Resources Development
"We can't go against it for the benefit of one community,"
said David Holtz, Michigan director for Clean Water Action.
"We're asking the governor to follow the agreement."
A coalition of four environmental action groups, including
Clean Water Action, Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation,
Public Interest Research Group in Michigan and the Sierra
Club, is appealing to the governor to address the Evart
deal and Michigan water policies.
"If we allow it to go unchallenged, how long will
it be before we have a 1,000 Nestles exporting public
water?" Holtz asked.
The groups also question the legality of converting a
portion of a municipal well field facility to private
use given the water resource is a public resource developed
under state statue for users of the municipality, not
for sale or profit.
Terry Swier is president of Michigan Citizens for Water
Conservation, a grassroots organization that in 2003 triumphed
in a lawsuit against the Ice Mountain Stanwood plant.
The lawsuit resulted in restricting plant operations,
making a secondary water source a priority for the company.
While the recent focus has been on Evart's measures, concerns
are not limited to the community's water policies.
"Evart just happened to be in the wrong place at
the wrong time," she said.