Saturday, August 8, 2009

DEQ Gives Homeowner Permit to Dump Nearly One Billion Gallons of Ground Water Down the Drain

Do you remember the big battle in Evart, Michigan between Ice Mountain and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ)? Nestle Waters was trying to create hundreds of jobs by bottling fresh ground water for retail sale. The DEQ, joined by the environmental groups like the Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation (MCWC), argued that Ice Mountain would deplete the ground water, causing damage to nearby lakes and streams. The case dragged on for years, coming to a final conclusion only last month when Ice Mountain agreed to pump no more than 313,000 gallons of groundwater per day. Originally, Ice Mountain had been granted permission to pump 576,000 gallons per day.

Terry Swier, president of the MCWC, called the settlement a victory for her organization. "This will leave more water in the system and should eliminate the more serious impacts" to the waterways that were threatened by the withdrawals, Swier said.

My question is this: If the DEQ and the MCWC were willing to fight so hard protect the ground water and the environment in that case, where are they on the situation in Grand Haven Township?

Look closely at the picture above. What you are looking at is called an "outfall structure." It is essentially a well with a pump at the bottom capable of extracting up to 450,000 gallons of fresh ground water per day. It runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

How did this pump get here? The short version of the story goes like this. A property owner applied for and was given a permit to build a home. Just before construction began, the builder decided to move the foundation from the back of the property to the front. After digging the foundation and putting in the basement, they discovered they were in a high water table. They tried installing a sump pump but it couldn't keep up. They ended up installing the outfall structure you see in the picture. This pristine water is being extracted from the water table and dumped, ostensibly into a county drain.

The problem is, the county drain doesn't go anywhere, leaving the potential for severe flooding of the neighborhood, especially when there is a wet, rainy period like we had last Spring. This causes damage to crops, property values and the highway that runs about 50 feet from the pump. Granted, the water eventually percolates back into the ground, but doesn't seem like a waste of quality ground water to allow this to happen? Why are environmental groups and the DEQ not taking action to prevent this waste? A neighbor across the street has been inquiring of the DEQ, the Drain Commissioner, the Township Board, the Department of Transportation and the County Road Commission. No action has been taken. This situation has been ongoing for over one year.

When pressed on the issue, legal counsel for the DEQ said in effect: "Oh, we didn't give them permission to pump all that water, we just granted them a permit to put the pipe in the ground." Who knew that all that water would come spewing out of the pipe?
Where are the Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation on this one?

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