Council to consider water radium
Waukesha effort aims to cut amount in wells
By Darryl Enriquez
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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
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.