Waukesha water

Susan Bence

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The Compact Council deliberated for less than a half hour Thursday before it unanimous voted not to repoen or modify the decision allowing Waukesha to draw Lake Michigan water.

Wisconsin DNR secretary Cathy Stepp said the Compact Council's final review further reinforces that the Great Lakes Compact works.

Susan Bence

John Dickert has been Racine's mayor since 2009. This summer, he’ll abandon that post to take a job with the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities initiative.

The organization represents mayors from more than 120 American and Canadian cities.

Last January inside Racine City Hall, Dickert addressed a swarm of journalists. They were there to learn about the contentious plan allowing the City of Waukesha to divert drinking water from Lake Michigan.

The City unveiled its website today before a crowd of Waukesha business and community leaders.
 

Water utility director Dan Duchniak says it is important to keep residents throughout the region informed as Waukesha proceeds with plans to draw drinking water from Lake Michigan.

“Not only Waukesha, but Franklin, Oak Creek, Muskego, New Berlin and Racine will be impacted by the project,” Duchniak says.

Construction has not yet begun.

A Wisconsin town is getting a lot of attention these days -- on the issue of drinking water.

 

Waukesha lies outside the Great Lakes basin, but it has received permission to take water from Lake Michigan. Officials are still debating the impact of the precedent-setting decision – and a group of mayors is challenging the town’s action.

 

Meanwhile, Waukesha is moving full speed ahead.  


Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

Waukesha reports that it is in full steam ahead mode with plans to deliver Lake Michigan water to its residents. At the meantime, a consortium of U.S. and Canadian mayors, the Great Lakes St Lawrence Cities Initiative, are fighting to halt the project.

While the Compact Council already cast its unanimous support in favor of Waukesha last summer, the body will listen to both sides in the next month or so.

Susan Bence

Although the Great Lakes governors approved Waukesha’s application, a coalition of Great Lakes mayors hopes to stop it.

This week, those who belong to the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative announced that they would challenge the Compact Council’s decision.

The decision to allow Waukesha to divert Lake Michigan water does meet the rigorous standards of the Great Lakes Compact and therefore sets 'a very bad precedent,' according to the Cities Initiative. It is launching a legal challenge, in addition to asking President Obama, Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau and the International Joint Commission to stop the diversion.

    

Waukesha leaders continued to celebrate on Wednesday. Earlier this week, all eight Great Lakes states voted to allow the city to draw water from Lake Michigan.

The city sits outside the Great Lakes basin but says it needs the water because Waukesha’s underground supply is running low and is tainted with radium. Waukesha plans to pump-in Lake Michigan water from Oak Creek’s utility because talks with Milwaukee did not advance.

Susan Bence

Tuesday all eight Great Lake states said “yes” to Waukesha's request to draw water from Lake Michigan. It was a historic moment because it was the first test of the Great Lakes Compact, which restricts diversions outside the basin.

The city's underground water supply is dwindling and increasingly contaminated with cancer-causing radium, so Waukesha spent years building its case that the Great Lakes are its only sustainable source for clean drinking water.

Wisconsin DNR

Wednesday, the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Water Resources Regional Body completed the last step necessary to push the City of Waukesha’s request to draw Lake Michigan water for a final vote.

Waukesha maintains the Great Lakes provide the only sustainable solution to its radium-tainted well water.

The group’s job was to review the application, judge if it adheres to the tenets of the Great Lakes Compact and pass recommendations to the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Council, or Compact Council.

Susan Bence

Waukesha will have to wait at least another week to learn whether its request for Lake Michigan water may move forward. Great Lakes delegates met Tuesday and Wednesday in Chicago. They were supposed to decide whether to recommend approval of Waukesha’s request; instead the group moved to delay.

Waukesha’s application to draw from the Basin is the first since the Great Lakes Compact came to life in 2008.

S Bence

As Great Lakes delegates take another look today at Waukesha’s application to divert Lake Michigan water, they may consider an unsettled issue.

Two weeks ago, the so-called Regional Body held a marathon session in Chicago and seemed to agree that Waukesha should trim down its proposed service area closer to the city’s boundaries. During the discussions, one question arose intermittently.

S Bence

Two days of crucial discussions that could affect Waukesha and its drinking water ended Friday afternoon in Chicago. Representatives of the Great Lakes states and Canadian provinces scaled-back part of the city's plan to divert water from Lake Michigan. The changes are recommendations but could influence the final outcome in June. 

S Bence

The director of the Center for Water Policy at UW-Milwaukee’s School of Freshwater Sciences, Jenny Kehl, says the pending decision on Waukesha's request to divert Great Lakes water will have national significance.

As Wells Go Deeper, Radium Levels Rise in Wisconsin's Tap Water

Mar 6, 2016
Matt Campbell / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

In 2014, the village of Sussex in southeast Wisconsin made a dismaying discovery. The radioactive element radium, a contaminant that occurs naturally in bedrock throughout the region, had seeped into two of its seven water wells.

It was not exactly a surprise. Radium has long been a problem in drinking water for dozens of Wisconsin communities from Green Bay to the Illinois border.

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