Taking a seat to take a stand

Ferris students organize sit-in to voice concerns at MDEQ public hearing

Multiple Ferris RSOs are taking a stand—err… a seat—to make their voices heard in the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s upcoming public hearing regarding Nestlé’s pumping of groundwater in Osceola County. 

Members of the Bulldog Sustainability Alliance (BSA), the Conscious Consumer Coalition and the FSU Outdoor Club have organized a sit-in to oppose the projected 167 percent increase in volume of groundwater Nestlé would be allowed to pump from a site in Osceola County, which is upstream from Big Rapids in the Muskegon River watershed.

Ferris industrial chemistry senior and BSA community service chair Adam Jandura first launched the idea to organize the sit-in.

“I thought it would be a good idea to at least have some of our members in attendance. The more we talked about it as a group, the more we realized that it was a big, important issue that we could have a say in,” Jandura said. 

Over 100 individuals have expressed interest on Facebook in attending the sit-in.

“We’re there to stand in opposition of this request. We’re there to bring up the valid points that have been made about why this request to increase the drawing of groundwater is a bad move both economically and environmentally,” Jandura said. “This issue is right here in Michigan and specifically in our immediate vicinity.”

According to Jandura, the proposed permit would affect both the local ecology and environment. The potential effects of the pumping were reported on in earlier articles published by the Torch, which can be found here and here

“From an ecological standpoint, anything that happens further upstream the part of the Muskegon River that passes through Big Rapids is going to have an effect on anything downstream. Where they’re drawing groundwater from essentially leads into the watershed that leads through our town and right next to our university. So from an ecological standpoint, the repercussions are fairly direct,” Jandura said. 

“From an economic standpoint, it’s upsetting that Nestlé gets to make so much in profit from a natural resource that this country and this state in particular really prides itself on,” Jandura said. “It’s not just us here in Michigan, and it’s not just Nestlé either. [Water bottling] companies are using these sorts of tactics and permits to draw obscene amounts of water for a minimal fee in many states.”

Those attending the sit-in plan to oppose the proposed pumping increase both verbally and with a sign, but the group hopes to keep the focus on civil discussion. 

“It’s more about the discussion than the protest itself. This isn’t the type of event that really warrants a protest because it’s a discussion-based event,” Jandura said. “We want to unite as a body of people to give a larger voice to the things that concern us than any one person would be able to give by themselves.”

According to Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation, residents of Detroit, Flint and other Michigan communities are being bussed to the event to ensure their voices are heard. Yet, “the facility is large enough to accommodate the anticipated crowd,” according to a statement on michigan.gov.

“Anybody is welcome to join us. Anybody who is concerned about the environment, anybody who is concerned about corporate overreach and people who just want to know more about the issue. Even if you don’t have an opinion one way or another, both the public hearing and the information session happening prior to it are valuable resources to anybody who may be affected by this permit,” Jandura said. “That applies to anybody living in the state of Michigan.”

The public hearing will begin with an informational session at 4 p.m. Wednesday, April 12. Following that will be the public hearing itself, which will begin at 7 p.m. on the same day in the University Center.  

In addition to the public hearing, the MDEQ is accepting written comments from the public regarding the permit proposal until 5 p.m. Friday, April 21.