Report blames Milwaukee for lake
The Associated Press
MILWAUKEE - The Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District
has wasted public money and failed to prevent pollution
from being dumped into Lake Michigan, a new report contends.
The Wisconsin Policy Research Institute’s report, prepared
for release Monday, calls for an overhaul of the district
to make it more accountable but offers no specific recommendation
on how to reshape it.
Appointees of Milwaukee’s mayor currently make up a majority
of the 11-member commission that oversees the MMSD.
Mayor John Norquist dismissed the report as "a politically
motivated effort to restart the sewer wars."
He referred to an unsuccessful effort by suburban officials
to base sewer funding on usage instead of property values.
"The real goal of changing governance is to give
a tax break to Waukesha and Ozaukee counties at the expense
of Milwaukee County taxpayers," Norquist said.
The institute’s report reviewed nearly 200 news articles,
some as old as 1913, as well as other reports and audits
to assess the district’s performance.
Among other findings:
A $3 billion deep tunnel sewage-storage facility and
related sewer upgrades completed a decade ago have not
lived up to the promise of virtually eliminating dumping
of sewage into Lake Michigan.
There has been only a slight improvement in Milwaukee
waterways and worse pollution of suburban waters.
About 13 billion gallons of untreated sewage have been
dumped by the district since late 1993. The district in
2001 agreed to spend $1 billion on sewer upgrades to settle
charges brought by the state Department of Natural Resources
over the dumping.
The biggest project, now under construction in Wauwatosa,
is a $116 million link expanding the deep tunnel system.
Dennis Grzezinski, chairman of the sewerage commission,
called the report biased and "an embarrassing diatribe."
He said sewage dumping has been reduced from 50 incidents
a year before the deep tunnel to an average of about 2½
a year, which has helped to clean up local rivers and
The sewerage district has taxing authority and plans
to levy $71.9 million in property taxes in 2004, unchanged
from this year’s sum.
State Sen. Alberta Darling said she plans to introduce
legislation this fall to change the sewerage district’s
governing body, probably to an elected one.
Darling, R-River Hills, said she would consult with local
officials and residents before introducing her proposal.
An effort by Darling in 1996 to put an elected board in
charge of the district failed.