Waukesha Mayor Shawn Reilly will be among those presenting at public hearings being held by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality on Waukesha’s request to divert Great Lakes’ water.
The city is under a court imposed deadline to reduce the levels of radium in its water and has determined there is no other viable water source to turn to. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources baked that position earlier this year, advancing the city’s diversion application to the governors and premiers of other Great Lakes states and provinces.
The city is proposing to withdraw up to an average of 10.1 million gallons per day and then return an equal amount of treated water. Waukesha had to apply for a diversion under the 2008 Great Lakes Compact because it is outside of the Great Lakes basin. The proposal is now subject to review by the governors of Great Lakes states and any one of them could turn it down if they find it doesn’t meet the compact’s requirements. The compact vote is expected by the end of May.
“The decision on Waukesha’s application is not a choice between protecting the Great Lakes and providing safe drinking water for Waukesha,” Reilly’s prepared testimony says. “By establishing a clear wall at the borders of straddling counties, and by requiring return flow, the compact ensure that both goals can be met.”
Opponents of the plan have argued approving Waukesha’s request will create a slippery slope towards other communities getting water. Waukesha is only able to request water from the Great Lakes because it is in a county straddling the basin.
Others have argued the city could maintain appropriate radium levels if it upgraded and added wells in addition to reducing its service area. Dan Duchniak, Waukesha Water Utility general manager, will argue against both of those claims, according to his prepared remarks.
Another public hearing on the city's Great Lakes water application will be held Feb. 18 in Waukesha at Carroll University’s Shattuck Music Center, 218 N. East Ave., Room 122.