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Battle Over Bottled Water On Lake Superior: An Entrepreneur's Vision Comes Up Against A Community's Concerns

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- A Minnesota woman is launching a legal battle with Wisconsin officials over her plans to start a bottled water company near Lake Superior. The struggle is pitting entrepreneurial aspirations against environmental concerns.

The water of Lake Superior is precious, even sacred, to people in Bayfield County, Wisconsin. In the town of Clover, better known as Herbster, signs declaring the lake "not for sale" are ubiquitous.

The signs are a response to Kristle Majchrzak and her intention to sell bottled water from a well on her family's property.

"We want to harvest our water on our property," she said. "Very low volume."

Majchrzak's plan includes trucking the water to Superior, Wisconsin, near Duluth, where she lives. There, the watered will be bottled in environmentally-friendly packaging.

The Bayfield County's Zoning and Planning Commission unanimously denied her permit, however, citing zoning issues and the proposal not being aligned with Herbster's long-term goals.

"It's very frustrating," Majchrzak said. "I am a third-generation property owner, my children will be the fourth generation, and it's important for me to leave that for them."

Robert Schierman, of the zoning committee, told WCCO-TV that her application struck a nerve in the community, "bringing out more opposition than all previous applications that have come before the committee combined."

That opposition include the 2,200-strong grassroots group, Lake Superior Is Not For Sale. The founders say they have a responsibility for the area's natural resources.

"Water needs to be taken care of, it needs to be protected, not sold and bottled for a profit for an individual," said Dana Churness, one of the group's founders.

Some members of the group also feel like Majchrzak isn't part of the community and isn't looking out for the town's best interests.

"She would be what we call a 'taker,'" Churness said. "She wouldn't be providing any reciprocating back to the community."

Another concern for Majchrzak's opponents is not knowing enough about the environmental impact on the lake.

"What is that going to do to our water," said Carolyn Gouge, a member of the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. "What is it going to do to those who sustain their life from fishing, with the wild rice potentially."

Majchrzak has appealed the permit denial with the Bayfield County Circuit Court.

"We meet standards," she said. "We don't impact the environment negatively. We want to be here to help the environment."

Majchrzak believes the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources should be overseeing her permit, not local officials.

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