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Great Lakes Article:

Wastewater could help solve water woes, expert says
By James Kogutkiewicz
Published April 29, 2005

BROOKFIELD - Waukesha should consider drinking its own wastewater instead of trying to hook up to Lake Michigan.

Thatís not meant as a slight but is the opinion offered Wednesday by an expert on southeastern Wisconsin water, Doug Cherkauer, a hydrology professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Cherkauer understood that some of the audience at the Public Policy Forum on "solving the water puzzle" would turn green at the very thought of his plan. But he explained to a room full of water experts that his idea would tap into the wastewater stream by using the Fox River as a kind of "moving reservoir."

He said the Waukesha area is now "pumping 9 million gallons (daily) out of the deep aquifer," which is the lowest accessible underground storage area for fresh water. "That runs through the system and goes to the sewage treatment plant, which is down river" from the city.

Cherkauer said, "Iím saying, take half of that flow and pipe it back somewhere up the river, north of Waukesha - removed from the Fox River but within the watershed. Then build big infiltration fields for it - with big, perforated pipes put underground - and let (the wastewater) soak in, after itís been treated. Then the soaking infiltration process provides still more treatment.

"Then that (wastewater) would flow back to the Fox River and it literally increases that Fox River flow by that same 4.5 million gallons a day," he said.

Cherkauer added, "If the stuff is treated correctly, then the river is still viable, itís still a recreational site, and youíre just inducing it to flow from the river into shallow wells that are placed along the river. Those wells could be hooked up to the same water mains that the current deep wells are hooked up to.

"The difference between a groundwater source and a river source is that you absolutely have to treat a water source when it comes out of the river, unlike well water," he said.

Cherkauer said the concept is not so outside the mainstream as it might sound. The Illinois communities of Elgin and Aurora are already drinking that water - the wastewater that Waukesha sends south down the Fox River past their communities.

The hydrologist said the water quality problem Waukesha is facing provides the motivation for trying this plan.

"Waukesha is kind of at a fork in the road right now because itís going to have to treat (water) for radium," Cherkauer said. "And that (radium treatment) is going to cost a lot. Iím suggesting that the money would be better spent if they built a system to treat water from wells along the river. It wouldnít have radium in it so they could treat for other things, like pathogens."

He said that would eliminate many of the problems involved in using Lake Michigan water, including getting permission from all the Great Lakes states, hooking up, and pumping the treated wastewater back to Milwaukee.

Cherkauer said the idea that the wastewater could merely be dumped into the Fox River after having been taken west of the subcontinental divide and outside the Lake Michigan basin would not be acceptable to the Council of Great Lakes Governors, which must approve any such diversion. He said the expensive returning of the water to the basin would almost certainly be required.








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