Sep 02, 2021

Bottled Water Proposal in Northern Wisconsin Sparks Debate

Those opposing the permit believe it would exploit a loophole in a landmark agreement barring water diversions from the Great Lakes

great lakes

Northern Wisconsin is debating a proposal to bottle and sell water from a well near Lake Superior.

A Duluth-based owner of a startup wants to sell bottled water under the business name Kristle KLR. Those opposing this believe it would bypass a loophole in a landmark agreement barring water diversions from the Great Lakes, reported WPR. According to the opposition, the startup’s plan could threaten water resources in the region. 

A five-member appeals board in Bayfield County unanimously upheld the denial of a special land use permit for Kristle Majchrzak and Robert Glau, Kristle’s father, on Aug. 2. They want to harvest and sell water from their property in the Town of Clover, and Minneapolis attorney Jack Perry, who represents Glau and Majchrzak, said they will appeal the decision in Bayfield County Circuit Court. 

"These people are entitled to their permit because you don't have jurisdiction," said Perry to the board, reported WPR.

Majchrzak applied for a conditional use permit in February 2021 for Kristle KLR. She is proposing to build underground storage tanks that would capture water from an artesian well flowing at a rate of roughly 5,000 gallons per day in the Town of Clover. This water would be collected by tanker trucks and transported off site to be bottled at a facility in Superior, and the water would be sold primarily in Wisconsin and Minnesota.

According to Perry, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has sole permitting authority over groundwater wells, and the county could be exposed to more than $250,000 in damages and legal fees for denying the proposal.

The town’s attorney, Max Lindsey, argues that the proposal does not qualify for the permit because it lies in an area that is zoned for residential development and associated recreational use, reported WPR.

According to the project’s opponents, granting the permit would allow Majchrzak and Glau to bypass the agreement about water use in the Great Lakes basin.

The Great Lakes Compact prevents water diversions outside the Great Lakes basin with limited exceptions. The compact also allows water to be removed from the Great Lakes basin in containers of 5.7 gallons or less, and this all was signed by eight Great Lakes governors in 2008, reported WPR.

"Because of the relatively small amount of water that we intend to collect without pumping from the aquifer each year, entities such as Nestle would have little interest in this business," said the Kristle KLR website. "These large companies are looking for massive, high output water sources to pump in excess of (hundreds or thousands) of gallons per minute. This is a practice we are completely against."

The county's appeals board received 1,692 letters in opposition to the project, particularly from tribes, environmental groups and grassroots citizens group Lake Superior Not For Sale. These entities argue that the proposal would threaten the sustainability of water resources and tribal treaty rights, reported WPR.

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