Friends of Milwaukee’s Rivers
Citizens’ Groups Press in Federal
For Immediate Release Contact:
Lynn Broaddus-FMR (414) 559-5495 (cell)
Chicago — Citing 1 billion gallons of raw industrial and domestic waste discharges to Lake Michigan since 1995 and accountability lapses by state and federal agencies to safeguard the public against future discharges by the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD), two citizens’ groups today took their case to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago.
federal and state agencies don’t take serious steps to end sewage
discharges to the lake that all of us in the region enjoy, citizens have the
right and duty to step in,” said
The groups—the Chicago-based Lake Michigan
Federation and Friends of Milwaukee’s Rivers—are appealing a
Milwaukee federal district court decision issued on September 29. The decision
dismissed the groups’ suit on procedural grounds without addressing the
groups’ claims that MMSD has illegally discharged 1 billion gallons of
raw industrial and domestic waste into regional waterways. The decision also
failed to address the groups’ claims that MMSD is now free to violate the
Clean Water Act by discharging sewage into
took the time to fully discuss whether or not to appeal and made the unanimous
decision that we have an obligation to the citizens of
In March 2002,
the two groups filed their lawsuit in
· The groups found more than 100 violations of the federal Clean Water Act. The WDNR cited only 8.
· The WDNR action does not impose penalties or other consequences when MMSD fails to undertake sewage overflow controls. The groups’ suit would hold MMSD accountable for violations with penalties. Such penalties could fund local water protection measures for greater protection against future overflows.
· The state suit only recognized MMSD violations that occurred during storms. The groups sued in federal court over “dry weather” Clean Water Act violations as well as those that resulted from storms.
· The groups’ lawsuit would prohibit MMSD from violating the Clean Water Act. The state action does not require a similar guarantee.
A July 2002 report by the bi-partisan Wisconsin Legislative Audit Bureau similarly found many more MMSD violations of the Clean Water Act than WDNR has acknowledged and that WDNR had a pattern of lax enforcement. The federal district decision dismissed the groups’ federal lawsuit, reasoning that the WDNR lawsuit was adequate.
The outcome of
this suit could potentially impact the ability of citizens in other regions to
use the Clean Water Act as intended. “The dumping of raw sewage into
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1970, the Lake Michigan Federation is the oldest citizens’
The Lake Michigan Federation and Friends of
Milwaukee’s Rivers are represented by Karen M. Schapiro at the