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Great Lakes Article:

Report blames Milwaukee for lake pollution problems
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 Lake Michigan.

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.

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