Hey, ABC12: Let’s Not Make Flint Nestle’s Straw Man [OPINION]
Nestle, who is not very popular in Michigan these days, announced a plan to donate water to Flint, but the way a certain "trusted news source" chose to present that story isn't doing the city any favors.
As far as big companies go, you'd be hard-pressed to find one less popular among Michiganders than Nestle Waters right now. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, ignoring over 80k public comments and the general consensus, recently approved Nestle's permit to increase the amount of water they're pulling from a Michigan aquifer from 250 gallons/minute to 400 gpm.
Flint residents pay some of the highest water bills in the country -- around $250/month on average -- for water that ranges from poor to completely unusable in some cases, while Nestle pays just $200/year for their all-you-can-pump water buffet. As you can imagine, the negative optics of the whole ordeal have resulted in a #BoycottNestle movement.
Likely as a response to said backlash, Nestle announced that they'll be donating 100,000 bottles of water a week to Flint for the next "several months." The donations are badly needed in the wake of the state's decision to shut down the free water distribution sites, despite receiving official reports that the water quality is still "poor" in Flint.
In case you were wondering, Nestle could pump enough water to donate 100,000 16.9 oz bottles a week to Flint for five months in just over 11 hours at 400 gpm. Granted, I had to do the math on this like 8 times, so it's possible I missed a variable. Either way, the point is that this is a drop in the bucket for them.
P.R. stunt or not -- my issue is not with that. It's actually pretty awesome that they're donating. My issue is with how ABC12 decided to present the story on Facebook -- by insinuating that Flint is partially at fault for an extremely unpopular public policy decision:
Granted, this is probably just a haphazardly conceived Facebook tease, but Flint's problems are not why Nestle was approved to up their water pumping efforts, nor were they approved so they could take over the state-funded water distros. All of those are separate things, and hanging them all together like that makes it look like this was all done for us.
This is the kind of scapegoating we Flint-towners have come to expect from hack newsmen and out-of-their depth sports talk stations in Detroit, but not from our own people. Whether it was intentional or not, turning Flint into a straw man for Nestle is irresponsible journalism, and just plain uncool. We have enough problems to worry about without outsiders blaming us for the MDEQ's unpopular decisions. Especially when a certain prominent Michigan politician's connections to a certain water company offer a more likely explanation for the move.
There is a real belief among many that water companies are absolutely gutting the Great Lakes region of its most precious resource -- the actual Great Lakes. It's an issue you'll likely hear a lot more about over the next decade, so it would be great if you guys could not incorrectly cite us as an excuse for big water to take another giant bite out of our natural resources. Thanks so much.