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Michiana distillery faces possibility of being shut down after wastewater issues

One major Michiana distillery is facing the possibility of being shut down after wastewater concerns, but neighboring business owners and residents are backing the business.

Three Oaks Village officials held a public meeting Tuesday where dozens showed up in support of Journeyman Distillery and their existence in the small Michigan town. Village officials say the wastewater system is handling too high of wastewater concentrations than it was designed for.

The village hall meeting room reached full capacity with residents and business owners saying this is a time and maintenance issue, not just a business owner issue and they’re helping fighting back.

Journeyman Distillery Owner Bill Welter was served a cease and desist order three weeks ago after village officials say the wastewater system there was handling four to five times higher concentrations of wastewater and that Journeyman’s is to blame.

“They are violating our ordinance by the strength of their waste they are putting into our system,” said Mike Greene, Village Manager of Three Oaks.

Greene says the wastewater lagoon hasn’t seen up keep in nearly 30 years but most issues have come up in the last 5. Journeyman has been around for eight.

“Journeyman is, in many ways, being made the focus of decade long issues,” said Welter.

The distillery is being asked to stop discharging into the sewage and sanitation system and that cease and desist order goes into effect June 8th

“Last year, Journeyman paid in over $40 thousand in sewage and sanitation fees and we feel like those dollars should have been reinvested into maintaining the system,” said Welter.

But Welter says with 134 employee’s jobs on the line, it takes a village to fix the problem.

“We’re employing a lot of people, we’re paying out fair share into the sewage and sanitation system and taxes and we need to work together to resolve this,” said Welter.

Next Wednesday the common council is holding a meeting to speak further on the issue and possibly make a decision on moving forward. As of right now that cease and desist order is still effective Friday.

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