Wisconsin Public Radio, February 19, 2016 Author: Chuck Quirmbach
Julie Ekman, Minnesota's representative on the review council, wanted to know if Waukesha could properly treat things like prescription drugs that pass through the body or are poured down the toilet. Duchniak said there aren't yet regulations on those materials, but that when there are, Waukesha would join other wastewater plants and find a solution.
Later, at an afternoon information session for the review panel, the questions became more persistent. Grant Trigger of Michigan zeroed in on Waukesha's request for lake water for portions of a few smaller neighboring communities, in what's called the city's extended service area. Trigger said approving Waukesha's proposal might mean problems with the next diversion request.
"The next person comes in and says, 'Wait a minute — I have a town of 5,000 and a service area that serves 120,000.' That other 115,000 people don't have to make a demonstrated need because that's the way you handled Waukesha," Trigger said.
Timothy Bruno of Pennsylvania said he worries about the extended service area and urban sprawl.
"In my experience, where you plan to extend water service and sewer service to dictate how you're going to develop over the years," said Bruno.
Marc Smith, policy director with the National Wildlife Federation, says the decision on Waukesha will set a precedent for other cities and counties that straddle the basin line.
“I think the heart and soul of the compact is the prohibition on diversions,” Smith says. “And the first one, we have to get it right. The amount of water they requested, even if they got approved for 16 million gallons a day, really is insignificant to the impact on the Great Lakes. That's not really the question. It's making sure we get it right and making sure that everything the compact outlined is followed through."
Smith argues the city can do more before tapping into the Great Lakes. And others agree that this is a critical test of the Great Lakes Compact.