Ak’wa Water, labeled for success

Ortonville- About 260 feet below the Village of Ortonville is a vast river of profit for one local business.
Ak’wa, the Greek word for water, is the name found on a variety of artesian water bottles in the 14,000-square-foot warehouse of Ak’wa Water Company. Local owners Jack Quigley and son Jack L. Quigley, along with Dwite Hill, bottle and distribute artesian water from a vast natural aquifer deep under the village.
‘We had an idea there was an artesian well down there when we drilled,? said Quigley, who retired from General Dynamics. The 268-foot well, which had to be bored through 68 feet of rock, was drilled in 1987. The company sold its first bottle of water in 1999.
‘We had the water tested and the health inspector kept saying how clean this water was’so we decided to bottle and sell it,? said Jack Quigley.
Supplied by an underground river, artesian water, forced up through the ground in a continuous fountain, is considered pure. The deep well is then sealed to prevent contamination by nearby groundwater. The Michigan Health Department inspects the water for purity about every six months.
‘When that water was tested there was no arsenic detected, ? says Quigley. ‘The water is tested each week by the Oakland County Health Department– it’s an expensive process but keeps our standards high.?
It took several years after the well started flowing to gain approval from the state, the Federal Department of Agriculture, and the United States Department of Agriculture for the well.
‘The biggest battle for approval was the Environmental Protection Agency due to the amount of contamination around Ortonville,? said Quigley.
Today more than 175 area businesses including Ford Hospital, Franklin Hills and the Troy Holiday Inn are supplied by Ak’wa with custom-labeled bottled water. The company also handles five gallon jugs. New for 2004 is the sale of Ak’wa water by the gallon.
‘Business picks up in the summer,? said Quigley. ‘As people get more health- conscious the sale of bottled water has also increased. We’ve been growing at a rate of about 20 to 25 percent each year.?
According to the International Bottled Water Association, this upward trend was reflected in 2003 category volume of nearly 6.4 billion gallons, a 7.5 percent increase over 2002, and a 2003 bottled-water consumption level of 22.6 gallons per capita, compared to 21.2 gallons per capita the previous year.