Construction of a pipeline running from Lake Michigan to Waukesha, Wis., was proposed as an opportunity to provide the city with nearly 20 million gallons of water a day.
The pipeline is part of a plan that begins with lowering the levels of radium in the existing supply and then tapping into a new water source.
It is an issue of public health, said Mayor Carol Lombardi. The city is in need of a new water source in order to protect the public's health from the cancer-causing agent, reported an article on GazetteExtra.com.
The project is required to clear each of the Great Lakes states as well as two Canadian provinces in order to begin construction. The article explained that the "city is west of the subcontinental divide, meaning its runoff flows toward the Mississippi Valley, not Lake Michigan." The other proposed alternative is to create a new well in western Waukesha County.
The plan, although not well-received by everyone, could benefit the lake because the town's growing population, which has led to deep wells being used has put stress on the below-ground aquifer that recharges Lake Michigan. Some argue that the pipeline could actually be of benefit to the lake.
Radium (Ra) is a naturally occurring radioactive element that is present in varying amounts in rocks and soil within the earth's crust. Small quantities of radium derived from these sources can also be found in groundwater supplies. Radium can be present in several forms (isotopes). Radium does not have color, odor or any taste to it, so it cannot be detected without testing the water. Long-term exposure to radium is thought to increase a person's chances of developing cancer.
A number of methods are available to public water supplies to remove radium from water. Ion exchange, lime softening, and reverse osmosis are the most common and can remove up to 90 percent of radium present.