Published in partnership with MintPress News.
FLINT, Michigan — As celebrities, corporations and citizens alike donates thousands of gallons of bottled water to the lead-poisoned residents of Flint, Michigan, Nestle, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of bottled water, has come under fire for its ties to the state’s water woes.
The global food and drink giant teamed up with Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola, and Pepsi to deliver up to 6.5 million bottles of water to 10,000 school students in Flint. Celebrities including Madonna and Jimmy Fallon have pledged tens of thousands of dollars toward relief efforts.
Although Nestle controls over 70 bottled water brands, some local activists are pushing back against the company’s involvement in relief efforts. On Sunday, New Era Detroit published a warning: “On the behalf of New Era Detroit we ask that you not purchase Nestle’s or Ice Mountain bottle (sic) water which is owned by Nestle.”
Activist, documentary filmmaker and Flint resident Michael Moore elaborated on the connections between Nestle and Michigan’s government in a Feb. 1 report on The Huffington Post:
[Gov. Rick] Snyder’s chief of staff throughout the two years of Flint’s poisoning, Dennis Muchmore, was intimately involved in all the decisions regarding Flint. His wife is Deb Muchmore, who just happens to be the spokesperson in Michigan for the Nestle Company — the largest owner of private water sources in the State of Michigan.
Nestle has been repeatedly sued in northern Michigan for the 200 gallons of fresh water per minute it sucks from out of the ground and bottles for sale as their Ice Mountain brand of bottled spring water. The Muchmores have a personal interest in seeing to it that Nestles grabs as much of Michigan’s clean water was possible — especially when cities like Flint in the future are going to need that Ice Mountain.
Nestle’s been embroiled in years of court battles over its water bottling activities in the state. Facing pressure from activist groups, the corporation agreed to reduce — but not eliminate — bottling in the state in 2009.
The governor’s office was directly involved in encouraging the city to switch to the corrosive Flint River water that led to lead poisoning and other toxins in Flint’s water supply. Leaked emails reveal that Dennis Muchmore warned Snyder in September that the crisis could become a dangerous “political football.” Muchmore, who was Snyder’s chief of staff at the time, encouraged blaming city officials for the crisis. He also encouraged prompt action, telling the governor in another email that he was “frustrated” with the slow response:
These folks are scared and worried about the health impacts and they are basically getting blown off by us (as a state we’re just not sympathizing with their plight).
Indeed, Snyder’s office continued to deny the size and scope of the crisis until last month, even as state officials received bottled water for their own use.
Whether or not the Snyder administration’s ties to Nestle influenced the government’s actions, bottled water donations alone will not fix the crisis. They do, however, provide much-needed good publicity for a corporation battling accusations of using slave labor in other markets and criticism of its high water use amid California’s drought.
In an open letter on his website, Moore wrote: “Do not send us bottles of water. Instead, join us in a revolt.” Moore is among the activists demanding the arrest and removal from office of Gov. Snyder. As of Wednesday evening, his petition for Snyder’s arrest had received over 586,400 signatures.