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Great Lakes Article:

MMSD dumped more raw sewage

Release continued for 19 hours, district says

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel staff
Last Updated: Aug. 15, 2002

The Milwaukee metropolitan sewer system dumped raw sewage for 19 hours from Tuesday afternoon until early Wednesday, in addition to the 13 hours of dumping late Monday and early Tuesday, a district spokesman said.

Sewer officials remained mum Wednesday on just how much raw sewage they dumped into Lake Michigan this week.

The Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District did provide an official figure for the volume of partially treated sewage dumped into the lake: 75 million gallons. That wastewater skipped at least one major stage of treatment, although all of the 75 million gallons was at least disinfected with chlorine and mixed with fully treated effluent before being discharged.

The district may release a figure today for the quantity of completely untreated sewage that was dumped after rainstorms Monday and Tuesday, said MMSD spokesman Bill Graffin.

"Our people are still working on it," he said.

Total sewage flow during the heaviest rain hit a temporary rate of 3.5 billion gallons per day, Graffin said.

"You get that flow going, you can't stop it," he said. MMSD officials shut off access to the deep tunnels Monday night and again Tuesday, allowing extra sewage to overflow into streams and the lake.

All three giant pumps sucking wastewater from the tunnel and sending it to the Jones Island sewage treatment plant have been operating continuously since heavy rains hit Monday, said Frank Munsey, operations manager for United Water Services, the private contractor that operates the tunnel and treatment plants.

State and federal rules discourage dumping from combined storm and sanitary sewers and virtually ban dumping of more concentrated wastes from sanitary sewers. MMSD's permit allows up to six instances of dumping a year from combined sewers.

All of this week's dumping came from combined sewers, Munsey said.

Rainfall in the Milwaukee area ranged from 2.72 inches in Mequon to 4.93 inches in Elm Grove, according to MMSD statistics.

About 100 homeowners on Milwaukee's south side reported basement sewage backups after this week's storms, said Jim Koster, sewer services manager for the city. Those reports came mostly from the 3200 block of S. 39th St.; 51st St. and S. Howard Ave.; near 43rd St. and S. Howard Ave.; and 39th St. and S. Morgan Ave., he said.

Eleventh District Ald. Joe Dudzik said his office received several dozen calls from constituents complaining of flooded basements and catch basins that were not taking in water.

The complaints, which came from residents throughout his southwest side district, were relayed to the Department of Public Works, he said.

"If you're the guy standing ankle deep in brown water it's a serious matter," Dudzik said.

There were no reports of backups in the Lincoln Creek neighborhood, which experienced ongoing flooding problems in recent years before the completion of a $115.4 million watercourse improvement project, Graffin said.

Sewage dumping from local sewer lines also was reported by three municipalities this week: Milwaukee, Wauwatosa and West Allis, said Jim Fratrick, a Department of Natural Resources watershed expert. West Allis reported dumping 8,145 gallons; totals for Milwaukee and Wauwatosa have not yet been reported, Fratrick said.

All three city beaches still had warnings about high E. coli levels posted Wednesday. Other Milwaukee County beaches, except Shorewood's Atwater Park Beach, also had E. coli warnings Wednesday.

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