MMSD panel endorses beach cleaning
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
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
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
"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
"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.