United front on radium sought
New regional task force urged, but Waukesha mayor calls
By Darryl Enriquez
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Waukesha - Facing a cost as high as $88 million to reduce
radium in city water and find a new water source, the
city needs to seek federal and state funding for all Wisconsin
communities with similar problems, state Rep. Ann Nischke
The Waukesha Republican said the issue should be pursued
by a new task force and presented as affecting a large
area of the state, not just Waukesha.
"We need to think more regionally," Nischke
said. "It needs a strategic formula to show its impact
on the governing groups and make it a full statewide issue."
Waukesha Mayor Carol Lombardi, however, said Nischke's
task force proposal would be useless.
"I don't feel there's any advantage to having a
unified front when the majority of communities with radium
problems aren't having the expense as we are to come into
compliance," Lombardi said.
"I think there's more than sufficient groups - especially
in the business community - and certainly the legislators
are aware of it. I can't see any benefits in trying to
come together," Lombardi said.
Waukesha is one of nearly 600 communities nationwide
under federal orders to reduce the concentration of radium
in municipal water supplies that originate from deep wells
containing naturally occurring radioactive substances.
The Environment Protection Agency has linked ingestion
of too much radium to cancer.
Wisconsin water utilities must submit plans to abate
radium to the state Department of Natural Resources by
early December and then will have three years to get the
plans approved and implemented.
Lombardi said the time to unify was when Waukesha fought
in a federal appeals court to have the Environment Protection
Agency relax its standards on radium concentrations. The
city picked up the full cost of that legal action and
in total has spent $1.5 million trying to have the federal
government back down.
"We don't have time for another task force,"
Lombardi said. "We already know what we need."
To reduce the radium concentration, the city is considering
drilling new wells into the radium-free shallow aquifer
in southern Waukesha. Water from the new source would
be blended with radium-ladened water from existing wells
to bring down the overall concentration.
City officials believe that because the deep aquifer
is degenerating, it will be necessary to find a new source,
possibly from Lake Michigan or from a new well field in
western Waukesha County, within five to 10 years.