GRAND RAPIDS (AP) -- A settlement announced Tuesday marks the end of a long legal dispute between the producer of Ice Mountain bottled water and an environmental group that fought for years to prevent or reduce the company's withdrawal of groundwater in Lower Michigan.
The deal allows Nestle Waters North America Inc.'s plant in Mecosta Township, in the west-central part of the peninsula, to pump an average of 218 gallons per minute -- or about 313,000 gallons per day -- with restrictions on spring and summer withdrawals.
When the plant opened seven years ago, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality's water division granted a permit allowing the company to withdraw up to 400 gallons per minute, or 576,000 gallons per day.
A Mecosta County judge approved the agreement on Monday and entered a final order closing the case.
"Reaching this agreement is very important for Nestle Waters' employees and their families, the west Michigan community and our company, in that it brings certainty for our operations, supports local jobs and puts an issue behind us," Vice President Heidi Paul said in a statement.
The plant, which is about 45 miles north of Grand Rapids and has about 250 employees, started bottling water in 2002. It uses groundwater from the Muskegon River watershed, drawn from wells in rural Mecosta County and a city of Evart municipal well.
A group of local residents, Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation, sued Nestle in 2001 over potential damage to neighboring lakes, streams and wetlands.
The case worked its way through Mecosta County Circuit Court, the Michigan Court of Appeals and the Michigan Supreme Court. The two sides settled on the first day of what was expected to be a weeklong hearing in Circuit Court on requested modifications of a temporary agreement reached in 2006 that also allowed Nestle to pump an average of 218 gallons per minute.