Thursday Water News: Nestle Wins; Mackinac Gets Cool(ant), and Some Good News From Cape Town


Water has good and important uses and we should protect it!

Let’s do some quick water news.

I suppose maybe the best news for water these days is that Scott Pruitt might be on his way out for being ludicrously, shamelessly corrupt. Granted, that might endear him to Trump, but there is also maybe a line that you can’t cross, even in this administration. (although apparently Trump still wants him to replace Sessions, which is pretty perfect.)

It’s fitting, I guess, that this is how he might go. His whole career has been to facilitate the wishes of industry and to destroy regulations, and doesn’t care what level of corruption it takes to get that, and the more power he’s gotten, the more willing he is to be corrupt (even as he hilariously can’t pay his $50 a day rent).

Still, I mean, it kind of sucks that he goes down for penny-ante corruption and “abuse of taxpayer dollars” and “acting like a total boob” rather than, you know, being one of the great enemies of the environment the world has ever seen, and therefore being responsible for hurting and killing people now and for generations to come. But that’s all legal.

Anyway, we’ll have more to say on this evil man when his goose is cooked, or when he’s promoted, or as he continues to be awful. But let’s get some water news. Let’s…start with the bad news and end with the good. We’ll end with the good! We’ll all be happy.

Nestle Gets Huge Win; Republicans Stop Pretending To Care About People


Go to hell, scab! 

(h/t loyal reader and Michigan Great Lakes buff Krista for pointing this story out over tacos)

80,945 to 75.

That was the tally of public comments about Nestle taking more water out of Michigan’s lakes and groundwater reservoirs. We’ve talked before about how Nestle pays essentially nothing for water, even while towns like Flint and many others lack clean water, but even that sweetheart deal wasn’t enough.

Nestle was pumping 250 gallons a minute from its wells in Western Michigan, but wanted to ramp that up to 400. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality  (staffed by Rick Snyder) asked for public comments. They got a record number.

If you were wondering, that 75 was the amount for. But Nestle still got approval, to the surprise of no one paying attention, and the dismay of everyone.

Now, public comments clearly aren’t binding. They aren’t even a referendum. But it’s pretty impossibly clear that nearly everyone is against this. But it doesn’t matter at all. It doesn’t matter that this will cost Michiganders by taking their water, not paying for it, and selling it at a profit. It’s robbing a resource to pump into plastic bottles, bragging about its purity, while hundreds of thousands around the state drink and shower in lead.

What matters is that a corporation wants water, and doesn’t want to pay for it. That’s the GOP, where any notion of the common good is decidedly uncommon.

I guess the bright side is that “‘The state says Nestlé has to complete a monitoring plan and submit it to the DEQ for approval,’ MR reports of the 58-page final memo from the Michigan agency.”  I mean if, you know, there weren’t bills going through that would eliminate DEQ approval for large users. What a happy break for Nestle!

Coolant Leak in Mackinac Highlights Insane Dangers of Enbridge 5


Yeah, let’s put pipes here, why not?

Submerged cables that carried electricity between Michigan’s two peninsulas were shut down after leaking about 550 gallons (2080 liters) of coolant fluid into the waterway that connects Lake Huron and Lake Michigan, officials said Tuesday.

The fluid is a mineral-based synthetic oil used for insulation that can be harmful if released into the environment, said Jackie Olson, spokeswoman for American Transmission Co., which operates the cables. It was too early to know what ecological damage might have been done in the Straits of Mackinac, said Joe Haas, district supervisor for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

So this is not great. The amount of coolant itself is probably not a huge deal, although any wildlife that comes into contact with it is going to get pretty sick, and die. But we’re assured the risk to humans is pretty minimal, so…yay?

Regardless of whether or not this was a disaster, and its certainly not good, we’re reminded that the Straits are incredibly ecologically important, and also wild and tumultuous, and what man puts down there is buffeted by the awesome and endless power of the Great Lakes, crashing into each other as they flow toward the sea.

That’s why there really shouldn’t be pipelines down there. Enbridge, they of DAPL, assure us that their oil pipelines, now being considered to bring ruinous tar sand under the waters, won’t leak. But they will. Enbridge 5, under the Straits, has already leaked, and Enbridge has already lied about it. It’s had nearly double the amount of leaks than previously reported. Don’t forget they’ve already had record fines against them for leaks in Michigan.

(It’s also the case that Enbridge had as one of its chief lobbyists the jamoke who rented Pruitt his $50 a night condo, right when the EPA was approving the extension of the Alberta Clipper, a pipeline to bring in material from Canadian oil sands. This has a lot to do with water, and the insane corruption of Pruitt, but we’ll deal with that in a bigger piece on all this. I’m so enraged thinking about I’d need another 10,000 words.)

So yes: it’s dangerous and insane to run pipelines under the Straits. They’ll leak. They’ll be damaged. They already have. We know that. We’ve talked about it incessantly. Every day is a gamble, and it is one that needs to stop.

Good News For Cape Town

Over the last few months, Cape Town has been hurtling toward a disaster. They were running out of water, which top scientists described as: bad. But the people and the government worked together to cut down waste and usage, and lo and behold:

High-income Cape Town families have cut their average water use by 80%, according to Martine Visser, director of the Environmental Policy Research Unit at the University of Cape Town, while low-income families cut back by 40%. After city residents were restricted to just over 13 gallons per person a day, any household that blew the limit had a water restriction device attached to its pipes by authorities.

Becuase of this aggressive stance, Day Zero keeps getting pushed back, maybe until next year. It’s still not good. It’s still very bad! But it shows that it is possible to cut back on water, and that people who can’t waste water won’t.

It shows that when a government actually is aggressive about making sure water isn’t wasted, then water isn’t wasted. John Fleck, as per habit, talks more about the lessons learned from Cape Town.

The message is that, if the need is there, in these modern rich world settings we are able to dial back our water use a lot. The apocalypse is not nigh.

Honestly, after everything else, saying that the apocalypse isn’t right here is as good a note to any on which to go to bed. Small miracles, right? That’s the stuff sweet dreams are made of.