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The city has taken another step forward on the long road to a new water supply.

The Waukesha Water Commission on Oct. 5 selected environmental firm Greely and Hansen to oversee the massive water diversion project that will shift the city's water supply from 10 wells – including seven deep wells drawing radium-contaminated water from a depleted sandstone aquifer – to Lake Michigan.

The $206 million plan, which is expected to take five years to complete, was approved by a historic vote in June. The city has been considering a number of firms to serve as a program and construction manager since then.

Greely and Hansen was selected from a shortlist of applicants for the oversight role. The firm will manage the permitting, design and construction of the project, as well as route studies, land and easement acquisitions, public outreach and more, according to a water utility memo.

Greely and Hansen will also oversee sub-consultants, and establish a local office for the project.

“This is another major milestone on our path to a safe and reliable water supply for our families and employers,” said Mayor Shawn Reilly, who also serves on the utility commission.

Reilly said the commissioners wanted a management team that is experienced in construction of large projects.

“With a project of this size, we need to make sure we have the best experts available to make sure that the project is done right and the money is spent wisely,” he added.

Project history

In June, Waukesha’s application to borrow Lake Michigan water under the Great Lakes Compact was unanimously approved by the eight Great Lakes governors. The approval followed six years of review by regulators in Wisconsin and the other Great Lakes states and two Canadian provinces.

The city received approval under the compact to withdraw up to an average of 8.2 million gallons per day of Lake Michigan water by mid-century, but it will return about 100 percent of that volume back to the Great Lakes. Officials have said that the water that will be borrowed and returned amounts to a tiny fraction of 1 percent of all the water in the Great Lakes.

As part of the diversion plan, Waukesha will buy water from the city of Oak Creek, build one set of pipelines and pumping stations to divert the water to Waukesha and a second set to return an equal volume to the Root River – a tributary of Lake Michigan – as fully treated wastewater.

The city’s current water supply is contaminated with radium, a human carcinogen. Officials have said long-term use of its current deep-aquifer water supply is environmentally unsustainable, due to a layer of shale rock that restricts recharge of the groundwater.

Water Utility Manager Dan Duchniak has said that residents' water bills will at least double, and likely triple, as a result of the project.

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