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Great Lakes Article:

Waukesha discussing county water commission
Lombardi said city will still seek Lake Michigan water
By Dennis A. Shook
GM Today
Posted December 1, 2005

WAUKESHA - Is it time for Waukesha County to act in unison when it comes to its water challenges? Waukesha Mayor Carol Lombardi believes so and told The Freeman on Tuesday she is discussing with newly elected Waukesha County Executive Daniel Vrakas the possibility of forming a county-wide water commission to that end.

That is happening even as the state official who helped negotiate the Great Lakes water compact to be signed Dec. 13 in Milwaukee confirmed Tuesday that Waukesha would still have "a lot of hurdles" to getting Lake Michigan water.

Lombardi said, "I have met with the new executive and said the county will have a role in the (compact) process application. But Waukesha is just one of the county communities interested. So I said I would hope there would be some kind of county water commission created to oversee and address these issues."

Lombardi said Waukesha Water Utility Manager Dan Duchniak and Waukesha County Parks and Land Use Director Dale Shaver have already been meeting to discuss the county’s role.

While Lombardi said the city would likely not be able to afford to pay for the return of wastewater to Milwaukee that would be required in any Lake Michigan water hookup deal, she said an application would still be made.

Todd Ambs, water division administrator for the state Department of Natural Resources and the state’s lead compact negotiator, said the compact would allow for such a bid "but the bar will be set very high."

The compact does allow for communities in counties straddling the Great Lakes basin - such as Waukesha County - to apply for water. But the compact demands that an equivalent amount of water be sent back by the communities using Lake Michigan water.

Ambs said Waukesha could return different sources of water to make an equivalent return, not necessarily the same exact water. But he added the water would have to be treated by the county or treatment paid for by the county through another entity before it could be returned to Lake Michigan.

Duchniak has said such a return would likely cost "hundreds of millions of dollars" in creating a piping system. Lombardi said there is no current plan to promote a capital program to pay such a cost.

Yet, Waukesha has a pressing problem with too much radium in its water and has been seeking ways to meet impending federal requirements to deal with the problem.

"We are looking at all the ways for meeting the radium standard issue" and not just a Lake Michigan connection, she said.

Lombardi said the city’s two new municipal wells are about to come on line. That water will be piped to a reservoir, where it will be blended with water that has a high radium content. In that way, the water can meet the federal standards, which is the city’s most immediate challenge.

But the mayor said the city will continue to look to drilling other wells to the west as long term solutions to its water problems.

"We are trying to identify as many potential water sources as possible for the city," she said.

Ambs said the state will help communities like Waukesha apply for Lake Michigan water but he said there are still questions as to how the compact requirements will be enforced and applied during the application process, which could take as long as a year. And he added that any one of the 10 signatories to the compact has the power to essentially veto any request.

Dennis A. Shook can be reached at





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