Don’t Divert: Ontario Weighs in on Waukesha
Posted on: April 4, 2016

Ontario may not get a vote in the Waukesha water diversion proposal, but it has a few things to say.

A London Free Press article posted Friday outlines some ‘key deficiencies’ the Ontario government sees in the Waukesha municipality’s plan to divert water from the Great Lakes Basin. The city is asking for 38 million litres per day from Lake Michigan to supplant its own water source, which has been contaminated with radium. They also say that they will treat the same amount of water, then pump it back into Lake Michigan via the Root River.

If the Waukesha diversion were to be approved, it would be the first strike against the Great Lakes Sustainable Water agreement, formed in 2008 between eight states and two provinces which border on the Great Lakes.

The article suggests that while Waukesha considers itself contingent of the Great Lakes Basin communities, Ontario expressed some key doubts:

“But Ontario’s technical review suggests pulling the plug on the idea. It says, in part:

  • Waukesha doesn’t qualify, by virtue of its geography — none of which is in the Great Lakes basin. There’s “insufficient” rigour in Wisconsin’s assessment that water diversion would have little or no impact on the quality or quantity of lakes water.
  • Wisconsin’s study “does not seem to take an overly critical review” of its preferred option in comparison with other possible options, such as treating radium out of its current water supply.
  • There’s not enough information on how Waukesha might deal with potential issues in its wastewater treatment.
  • The plan doesn’t identify which other communities in the Mississippi River basin might also be dealing with contaminated aquifers, or whether they might eventually also look to tap into the Great Lakes for water.”

Ontario and Quebec have been invited to give their input at a meeting in Chicago on April 21st. However, they do not have a vote against the proposal. All eight Great Lakes states must vote unanimously to approve it.

Waukesha’s proposal is causing a stir because its critics fear that if the proposal is accepted, it will set precedent to spur similar diversion proposals from more distant locations.

Though Ontario and Quebec do not have a vote, interested members of the public think the provinces should hold their own public meetings to raise awareness and conversation.

For the full text of the article, click here. Photo credit: Associated Press file photo.

The Toronto Star reports on Ontario’s decision here.

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