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Great Lakes Article:

Council to consider water radium plan
Waukesha effort aims to cut amount in wells
By Darryl Enriquez
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
12/16/03


Waukesha - The Common Council is to get its first look tonight at an $8.2 million plan to reduce radium in city drinking water through this decade, an effort on which the Waukesha Water Utility has worked nearly two years.

The utility commission approved the plan Monday.

Drafts of the plan have received conceptual approval from the state Department of Natural Resources, which has placed the city and nearly 50 other water utilities in the state under an order to comply with federal water regulations.

The DNR is acting as the enforcement arm of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to bring water utilities into compliance with federal radium standards. Radium occurs naturally in many deep wells, and the federal government has determined that it is a cancer risk.

According to a Water Utility report released Monday, radium levels vary among the city's 10 wells from 5.7 to 17.1 picocuries per liter. Federal radium standards allow no more than 5 ppl.

Water utility customers, not property taxes, will pay for the $8.2 million plan, a stopgap measure until the city finds an alternative water supply, said Dan Duchniak, the utility's general manager. The utility serves about 66,000 people with 18,500 service connections.

The council must approve the plan.

A long-range plan providing options to eliminate the city's dependency on well water from failing deep sandstone aquifers is in place. The utility is pursuing two paths to find another water supply.

The first is a $44 million effort to acquire fresh water from Lake Michigan, a dicey proposal considering the obstacles facing any community outside the Great Lakes drainage basin, such as Waukesha.

Regardless, the city intends to apply in May for a permit to acquire purified Lake Michigan water, Duchniak said.

The second is a $77 million option for developing a well field in western Waukesha County.

Whatever option is chosen, $2.8 million must be added for design and research of the water plans, Duchniak said.

Here is the proposed timetable for city plans to bring drinking water into short-term compliance by Dec. 8, 2006:

The city will approve the design and engineering of two shallow wells by Jan. 1. The wells will provide water from a shallow aquifer. Plans and specifications for the wells will be completed by Aug. 1.

The DNR will review those plans and make reasonable recommendations and revisions within 90 days of receiving the plans.
The city will build the two wells by Aug. 31, 2005.

The piping and apparatus to blend water from the two wells with radium-laden water from municipal well No. 8 will be built by Dec. 31, 2005.

The state will determine the effectiveness of the treatment and whether the concentrations of radium and other potentially harmful contaminants meet standards, based on routine monitoring and testing to be determined.

The order allows the city to skirt the compliance date in case of circumstances "beyond the reasonable control of the city."

The state agrees that the city's good-faith effort to meet the schedule will be a substantial factor in determining whether to impose penalties against Waukesha for being out of compliance, the order says.

The state may impose daily forfeitures of up to $5,000 against utilities that fail to meet the compliance date.

The city plans to reduce radium in its other wells and to follow a similar timetable.

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