Waukesha Freeman
December 21, 2018
By Cara Spoto

Expense comes four years ahead of switch to Lake Michigan water

Waukesha — The Waukesha Water Utility is facing a cost of up to $325,000 to replace or repair a pump at its largest radium-compliant well.

The expense comes roughly two years after the pump’s last failure in 2016, and roughly four years before the city is expected to abandon the use of all its wells in favor of a Great Lakes water supply.

According to a memo submitted to the Waukesha Water Commission, the pump, which allows the well — dubbed Well #10 — to supply the city with 3.8 million gallons of water a day, first started having troubles on Nov. 24 when it faulted into a shutdown. Utility staff were able to restart the pump, but it faulted again Dec. 1.

Waukesha’s average water use is about 6 million gallons per day, but demand fluctuates with the seasons. Tests run by a consultant two days later revealed that “catastrophic failure” of the pump’s motor was imminent, the memo states.

New, repaired pump

The utility has since been able to keep the pump running, but only by changing its typical drive settings so that it will not fault.

While the utility has a plan to install a temporary 350- horsepower pump at the well, utility staff say the failing 700- horsepower pump must either be replaced or repaired. While the utility could get by without a new or repaired pump in the winter or summer, the memo states that high demand could leave it looking for water from one of its nonradium compliant wells.

The Waukesha Water Commission will consider a request to let the Waukesha Water Utility General Manager Dan Duchniak negotiate for the replacement or repair of the well pump this week.

In the meantime, the utility will be shutting well down Well #10 on Jan. 2, so that it can install the lower horsepower well, a press release states.

The work is expected to be completed by the end of January and is not expected to affect customer water service or quality. The temporary pump is expected to deliver half of the well’s regular capacity, but other wells will be able to be utilized to cover any additional capacity needed, the release states.

“I am completely confident that the utility will still meet the water needs and water quality for the community,” Duchniak states in the release.

Utility: Lake water needed

Duchniak used the failure of the pump at Well #10, and a recent pump failure at Well #8, as examples of why the new Great Lakes water supply is critical.

The utility has six active wells that can meet temporary standards for radium, the release states, but four others that are not regularly used due to radium problems.

“Our staff is working diligently to meet the needs of the city. But, we have said for years — and regulators from 10 states and provinces have agreed — that our current groundwater system is not reliable or sustainable for the long term. The switch to Lake Michigan water will ensure we have safe and reliable drinking water for generations to come,” Duchniak states in the release.

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