Waukesha calls off legal fight
against water standards
Chances for Supreme Court success were slim, officials
By Ryan Amundson
The Waukesha Freeman
WAUKESHA - A small chance of success has prompted city
officials to end their legal fight against the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency over radium standards in municipal drinking
"We’re not going to pursue (litigation) recognizing
the amount of time and money spent through the years,"
Waukesha Mayor Carol Lombardi said.
In closed session at Tuesday’s common council meeting,
the council decided against petitioning the U.S. Supreme
Court to extend the fight that has been waged for years
against the federal regulatory agency.
"The question was what are the odds of prevailing?"
Alderman James Ripplinger said after the meeting. "The
answer was so small."
In February, a U.S. Appeals Court in Washington D.C.
upheld the EPA’s standards for radium in drinking water.
Those standards allow for 5 picocuries of radium per liter
of drinking water. Last year, the Waukesha Water Utility
reported an average of 8.5 picocuries per liter.
Since that decision was handed down, City Attorney Curt
Meitz has consulted outside sources to examine the feasibility
of bringing the case to the Supreme Court.
Alderwoman Kathleen Cummings said the prevailing thought
was to stop bringing litigation.
"I listened to the city attorney’s recommendation
and concurred," she said.
The odds of getting the case in front of the Supreme
Court were slim. Shortly after the appeals court decision
was handed down, Meitz said only about 1 percent of petitions
presented to the high court are argued.
"There was very little chance the Supreme Court
would listen," Ripplinger said. "The odds are
so small, there’s no reason to pursue it anymore."
The city’s decision to forgo any further litigation comes
only weeks after the Waukesha Water Utility decided against
pursuing further action against the EPA.
Since 2002, the city has spent more than $500,000 in
legal consultation fees while pursuing the case. Ripplinger
said it would be hard to determine how much more bringing
the case before the Supreme Court would cost taxpayers
since most attorneys charge by the hour.
Without pursuing further court action, the city must
now comply with federal standards. A plan for compliance
must be submitted to the Wisconsin Department of Natural
Resources by December.
Waukesha Water Utility General Manager Dan Duchniak has
said that finding alternate ground water sources, getting
drinking water from Lake Michigan and treating the water
now being pumped from deep-water aquifers are all options.
Those options are estimated to cost between $50 million
to $135 million.
To help defray the cost, the city and water utility sent
a letter to local legislators requesting $20 million to
help implement such a source. Officials in the offices
of U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wis., and U.S. Rep. F. James
Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., said they had not received the