July 19, 2017
By Hannah Weikel, Freeman Staff
WAUKESHA — City officials have reached an agreement with the state of Wisconsin to extend the impend-ing deadline for compliance with radium standards in drinking water until 2023, when the pipeline diverting Lake Michigan water to the city is expected to be finished.
Waukesha had been required to be in full compliance by June 30, 2018 or be fined under a previous agreement with the state. The city didn’t receive final approval for the project until June 2017, which left two years for planning, design and construction. The new agreement buys Waukesha five more years for completion, until Sept. 1, 2023.
Obtaining Great Lakes water is a multi-step process and this is just one more step in that process,” Mayor Shawn Reilly said. “There are a lot of things that still need to be taken care of.” Waukesha is currently weighing two separate water proposals from Oak Creek and Milwaukee, and will likely decide on a water provider in August, Reilly said. In the meantime, the agreement received unanimous approval from the Common Council on Tuesday night. It still needs a sig-nature from the Wisconsin Department of Justice before it can be sent to Waukesha County Circuit Court for final judgment. Reilly said he expects it to be approved in court.
As part of the amended agreement, Waukesha must have a backup plan for a temporary radium treatment system if the Great Lakes water diversion project is delayed further.
If the diversion project is not 50 percent completed by May 2022, Waukesha will need to install a temporary system that costs about $3.1 million to carry over until Lake Michigan water is available.
The agreement also obligates Waukesha to have back-up pumps for radium compliant wells in the event of one breaking. The city has increased the usage of radium compliant wells, which has shortened the life of pumps and motors. The city is now required to have replacement equipment on hand.
Reilly said he expects the switch to Great Lakes water to move forward on schedule and does not think the city will be required to build the costly additional treatment.
Radium occurs naturally in Waukesha’s deep aquifer water supply and the city’s water currently exceeds safe drinking levels, according to the most recent water report. The standards are based on risks of drinking a half gallon of the water every day for many years.