backs water bottler on 2 issues
now to focus on contention that taking groundwater could
harm citizens, environment Associated
RAPIDS -- A judge has issued two rulings favoring the
defendant in a lawsuit filed by a citizens group against
the operator of a water-bottling plant in Stanwood.
On Tuesday, Mecosta County Circuit Judge
Lawrence Root affirmed his own Oct. 4 ruling in which he
rejected a claim by Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation
that Ice Mountain Spring Water Co.'s use of groundwater
violates the Public Trust Doctrine.
The doctrine is a historical and evolving
concept relating to the ownership, protection and use of
essential natural resources.
Root noted that Michigan law applies the
doctrine only to waters that are navigable for commercial
shipping or commercial log flotation. The bottling plant
draws its water from underground.
On Thursday, Root dismissed a contention
in the suit that the withdrawal of groundwater by Ice Mountain,
a subsidiary of Nestle Waters North America, is a misappropriation
of state-owned property.
Root ruled that the state does not own
the groundwater that Ice Mountain withdraws. Instead, he
said property owners have a right to withdraw water from
beneath their lands as long as it does not unreasonably
interfere with others' use of the water from the same source.
With those arguments no longer part of
the case, a trial scheduled to begin May 5 will focus on
the plaintiff's claims that the water's withdrawal has harmed,
or is likely to harm, the members of the citizens group
and the environment.
The judge's decisions did not surprise
Terry Swier, president of the citizens group.
"It seems to me that Judge Root is very
narrow in how he has looked at this case," Swier told the
Pioneer of Big Rapids.
Michael Haines, a Grand Rapids lawyer
for Nestle Waters North America, was pleased by the recent
course of events.
"The rulings this week by the court follow
established Michigan law and constitutional principles,"
Production started May 4 at the southwestern
Mecosta County plant, where water is piped in from wells
about 12 miles to the northeast.
The plant has a state license to withdraw
up to 575,000 gallons daily from beneath the ground.
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