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Great Lakes Article:

MMSD panel endorses beach cleaning plan
But some say project is county's responsibility
By Marie Rohde
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Posted February 14th, 2005

Although adamant that dumped sewage is not the primary reason for area beach closings, sewerage district officials are proposing to pay for work that will reduce pollution and keep the Bradford and McKinley beaches open more days this summer.

Sewerage district staff want to spend $50,000 to groom the two Milwaukee beaches this summer, but some of the commissioners who oversee the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District are balking, saying it's not in the district's job description.

Rep. Pedro Colon (D-Milwaukee), a commissioner who voted against the proposal during a committee meeting Monday, said the sewerage district should stick to its key business - treating wastewater.

"All I want and all the people who live in my district want is to be able to use the beaches this summer," Colon said. "But the beaches are not the responsibility of the sewerage district. The county exec needs to bear responsibility for taking care of the beaches."

Steve Mokrohisky, deputy chief of staff for County Executive Scott Walker, said the beach problem is a shared responsibility. He said the county would be paying for the workers who operate the beachcombing equipment and was also paying the full cost of operating a cleaner that would groom four other county beaches.

"We believe this is a positive partnership," Mokrohisky said. "The water-quality problem is due at least in part to the district's sewage overflows."

Scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's Great Lakes Water Institute have been studying the pollution at Bradford and have concluded that most of the pollution that causes the beach closing comes from storm sewers that dump "clean" water that runs off streets and from Lake Park - not from sewage being dumped in the lake or other waterways. The water from seven county-owned outfalls carries street runoff directly onto the beach.

The $50,000 project for this summer would be used to pay for equipment to comb the two beaches five days a week. It is modeled after a Racine project that resulted in 30% fewer beach closings last summer.

Last year, the sewerage district spent $22,000 on another beach-combing project that was not successful. The failure was blamed on using less-effective equipment to comb six beaches.

"The key is to stick with it," said Sue Black, the Milwaukee County Parks director, who said she looked at the Racine project. "They had one machine that runs seven days a week cleaning one beach."

Several sewerage district commissioners said they are concerned that Milwaukee County hasn't made a commitment to long-term solutions.

Ald. Michael D'Amato, another commission member, said he believes in working cooperatively but asked about the county's commitment.

"We're bringing the money to the table, and UWM is bringing the science," D'Amato said. "Milwaukee County is bringing a dirty beach."

Black acknowledged that there is no money in the county budget for continuing the program in the years to come.

Steve Jacquart, the sewerage district's coordinator of intergovernmental affairs, noted that the county would be responsible for what is likely to be a far more expensive fix of the Bradford Beach problem - fixing several storm sewers that carry street and park runoff onto the beach.

"That's a big ticket item that the county will have to pick up," Jacquart said. "I don't think the commission will be paying for that."

Black said the county was assessing various alternatives to remedy the storm sewer problem.

The district's Operations Committee voted Monday to approve the plan. The full commission is scheduled to vote on the proposal when it meets Feb. 28.

The sewerage district, Milwaukee County and the state cooperated on another project that should clean up another local beach. A project to clean the water that runs off the parking lot at South Shore Beach will be constructed this year, according to Bill Graffin, a district spokesman. The state Department of Natural Resources is providing half the cost of a device that will treat that water. The sewerage district will pay $15,000, and Milwaukee County will pay $16,809.






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