administrator calls for Milwaukee sewer fix
Published June 9, 2004
MILWAUKEE - The dumping of 4.6 billion gallons of untreated
sewage into Lake Michigan at Milwaukee last month is an
extremely serious problem and swift action should be taken,
the regional administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection
"Whether this was a once-in-five-year event or a
once-in-95-year event, dumping that kind of volume into
the lake is not acceptable," Thomas Skinner said
Tuesday in an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
He said the EPA's technical staff will help devise solutions,
which he predicted will be "complex, expensive and
Although most communities have some overflows of untreated
sewage, the volume released this spring when heavy rains
hit Milwaukee far exceeds that of any other Lake Michigan
community and is one of the worst of the Great Lakes region,
"Almost every city on the Great Lakes has problems,
but Milwaukee's are of a level that are significantly
greater than many other cities," Skinner said.
Chicago has rarely dumped untreated sewage into Lake
Michigan in recent years, Skinner said.
Skinner said the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District
has relied for a long time on its deep-tunnel system as
the sole solution to dumping problems.
"It is now proving not to be the comprehensive solution
to the problem," Skinner said.
Adding capacity to the tunnel system may turn out to
be only one of several potential solutions, he said.
MMSD Executive Director Kevin Shafer agreed that the
dumping was unacceptable and said he welcomed any EPA
help in crafting a solution.
Shafer suggested a variety of possible moves, including
adding tunnel links, expanding treatment plant capacity,
and cutting infiltration of rainwater into sewers.
He called the tunnel the first phase of an ongoing program
of local sewer improvements.