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08/13/19 08:12:am

The Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD) is pleased to welcome the Task Force on Water Quality to Milwaukee and appreciates having had the opportunity to testify at one of its previous hearings on July 11th in Sturtevant. MMSD, an award-winning regional agency that provides wastewater and flood management services to 1.1 million people in 28 communities, issued the following statement on water quality in the region as the Task Force on Water Quality holds a public hearing today at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee:

MMSD has invested more than $4 billion in infrastructure improvements, successfully reducing sewage overflows from 50-to-60 per year down to 2-to-3 annually since the deep tunnel became operational in 1993. To date, the tunnel has prevented more than 128 billion gallons of wastewater and stormwater from polluting Lake Michigan. This investment has helped make our region a national leader in water quality protection and overflow reduction. Since 1994, MMSD has captured and cleaned 98.4% of all the wastewater in our system which exceeds the EPA goal of 85% (Intergovernmental Cooperation Council Resolution).

The dramatic impact of reduced overflows and many other water quality improvement efforts over the years was reported in the  Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Rivers Reborn Special Report (June 7, 2014), “Buoyed by tougher environmental regulations and $5 billion in improvements, from the building of the deep tunnel system to the removal of dams and reduction in phosphorus, the Milwaukee River is cleaner and more valuable economically and ecologically than at any point in the past 100 years.” (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article)

A letter to the Task Force from Tim Sheehy, President of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, also highlighted the economic benefits resulting from clean water, “One of Metropolitan Milwaukee’s best-selling points is freshwater. It is apparent in the value of our lakefront and river system to both employers and the talent recruited to help them stay competitive. The MMAC membership views MMSD as both a good steward of water quality for the region, and a significant asset for economic development.” (MMAC letter)

As we look to the future, reducing polluted stormwater runoff from urban and rural areas, which accounts for approximately 90% of the average annual loads of bacteria to regional waterways, remains as one of the largest challenges to clean water . Managing water where it falls using green infrastructure practices such as, porous pavers for parking lots, driveways and sidewalks, rain barrels and green roofs, will be a key strategy to reduce polluted runoff to area waterways and the risk of flooding.