Waukesha Water Utility General Manager says Great Lakes application not about expansion

Published on: 11/13/2013

About a month after Waukesha submitted its revised application for Great Lakes water to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for review, Water Utility General Manager Dan Duchniak wanted to make sure the public was informed.

"There's lots of misunderstandings and misinformation," Duchniak said at the start of the informational meting at the Carroll University Center for Graduate Studies Auditorium.

Duchniak gave background on why the city needs a new water source (the city's primary water source, the deep aquifer is down 400 to 600 feet), how it determined the Great Lakes was the most sustainable solution, that the city's secondary source of shallow groundwater wells would have permanent adverse environmental impacts to thousands of acres of wetland habitat and designated environmental areas.

"It's not about expanding," he said. "It's about our water supply."

He reinforced the city will recycle 100 percent of the water back to Lake Michigan and that the city is eligible for Great Lakes water because the Great Lakes Compact provides limited exceptions for communities that are within the counties that straddle the Great Lakes Basin divide.

Waukesha is just 1.5 miles outside of the Great Lakes Basinand briefed the audience on new items since the city's 2010 diversion application was sent to the DNR.

The future maximum daily average withdrawal is 10.1 million gallons of water (down from its original estimate of 10.9 mgd), the city's return flow route is changed from the Underwood Creek to the Root River and its preferred supplier for Lake Michigan water has changed from the City of Milwaukee to Oak Creek, which was decided last fall.

"I am very happy it's in the DNR's hands," Duchniak said after the meeting. "We have provided a lot of public input. That input we received from the 100 meetings we've had has made our application better."

However, some still question the application.

A day before the meeting, the Compact Implementation Coalition, which includes six environmental and conservation groups Clean Wisconsin, Midwest Environmental Advocates, Milwaukee Riverkeeper, River Alliance of Wisconsin, Waukesha County Environmental Action League and the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, contended Waukesha's plan to divert an average of 10.1 million gallons daily from Lake Michigan that it doesn't meet the standards of the Great Lakes Basin Compact.

"I think they believe we should live within our means and be able to live within the water supply in the City of Waukesha," Duchniak said. "The problem is Waukesha is a highly urbanized area and we had one of our deep aquifer wells that was contaminated because of that urbanization and the landfills that exist there.

"There's no good alternatives and we've compared all the alternatives and if there was we would be looking further at it. But this is the most environmentally sustainable solution for the City of Waukesha."

Regarding the coalition contesting the city's application, Duchniak said, "We appreciate the input that they provide. We've looked at their input looked at their questions, we've expanded our research and data based off that research they've provided to us.

"And we go back and the only reasonable solution is the Great Lakes supply. So again I think we could look at how we can work together to make this a win-win for everybody."

He added the coalition is looking at a river bank inducement but said a study was performed and "we needed three times as many wells so that impacts a lot greater area and a lot more wetlands and a lot more private wells.

"You compare that with the Great Lakes supply where you're able to have minimal impacts on the environment, provide benefits to the Root River, ultimately providing up to 10,000 angling hours which provides more recreational dollars being spent in the City of Racine in the Great Lakes Basin. It's a win-win."

The second informational meeting on Waukesha's Great Lakes water application was held Wednesday at the Oak Creek Community Center.

The third meeting will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. today at the Racine Campus Conference Center, Great Lakes Room, Gateway Technical College, 1001 S. Main St., Racine, and the final meeting is Monday at the Zilber School of Public Health, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, rooms 109, 119 and 129, 1240 N. 10th St., Milwaukee.

Duchniak was pleased with the first meeting.

"We can only hope because of all the effort that we put in, the 3,000 pages of application that we have that we'll move toward an approval and ultimately solidifying the compact and protecting the Great Lakes," Duchniak said.

Duchniak said the city has two options for Plan B: a deep and shallow aquifer alternative whether deep and shallow wells or deep in riverbank inducement.

"We acquired land in the Town of Waukesha that we could develop some wells and we have an idea of where the land is that we would be able to acquire for additional wells," Duchniak said.

When asked if having the Town of Waukesha in its service area has anything to do with expansion, Duchniak said "that is a ridiculous claim. It's about proper planning. No one is going to be forced to be on water if they don't want to be on water. It's about proper planning and proper building and facilities.

"And I think it's the right decision because it protects the Town residents ultimately in the future. If you look at the Center for Disease Control (and Prevention) showed that of the water born illnesses last year 78 percent of them were from private wells that people were on."

Well update

Duchniak provided an update on Well No. 10 that has been out of service the last couple of months due to an electrical shortage.

The well, which has also been out of commission three of the last four years, produces almost 4 million gallons a day. Its parts were shipped back to the manufacturer for evaluation in Oklahoma, Duchniak said.

The estimated cost to have it repaired is between $250,000 and $300,000. Duchniak said he isn't sure if the insurance company will cover the cost or if the city will have to cover this.

Duchniak expects the well to return to operation in early 2014.