Journeyman Distillery cease and desist over water waste delayed 5 days

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New developments in the waste water dispute between Journeyman Distillery and the village of Three Oaks.

Journeyman has been ordered to stop operations after the village council meeting next Wednesday, five days later than the initial Friday deadline.

Journeyman Distillery acknowledges it's breaking an ordinance with how much waste it's putting into the lagoon treatment system, but the entire system could eventually be compromised according to the village because of the quality of waste that they distillery is dumping.

In a lagoon system, the water is filled with bacteria that eats away waste in three separate areas. By the time it reaches the end, the water meets environmental standards. But it can only handle up to 30 to 40 milligrams per liter of something called the biochemical oxygen demand.

"This past spring when we discharged it, it was 86," Village Manager Mike Greene said. "So we're about twice our limit."

The village says that level of waste became the norm after Journeyman expanded in 2015. The village says when waste in the water is that bad, it could effectively stop the lagoon from cleaning.

"The bacteria eats what's inside of the lagoon and when your strength is so high, it cannot consume that and essentially kills them," Greene said.

The village and Journeyman have been talking about how to get the levels lower in the last year, but Journeyman believes it's on the village to clean the lagoons, something they haven't done in 30 years.

"If the ponds were functioning, if they had been dredged, maintained over a long period of time and were in good repair, our level of discharge and strength would not be an issue," Journeyman owner Bill Welter said.

Nobody wants to have Journeyman move away from Three Oaks. But if the cease and desist halts production, Journeyman says it's pretty much like being given an eviction notice. Then three oaks loses it's biggest taxpayer.

"At the end of the day, if we can't produce in Three Oaks, we really don't have a restaurant and we don't really have enough event space," Welter said. "Because those components are fueled by the production of the distilled spirits."

Both sides want to come to an agreement. The village says pre-treatment plants or hauling to a bigger community's plant would work. Journeyman says they would gladly pay more to dump more in the lagoon to help pay for better treatment. The problem is, time is essential. The village says it can't let the waste keep coming. even if Journeyman builds a solution, they say it would take time.

"If it's one of those things where it takes 18 months, I don't see how we could," Greene said. "That still would be damaging to our system for 18 months.

Next Wednesday, the village and Journeyman should come up with a decision on what will happen at the village council meeting.