[Date Prev][Date Next][Date Index]

GLIN==> Milwaukee Sewage Blending








For Immediate Release         Contact:

Dr. Lynn Broaddus–FMR 414-559-5495 (mobile) or 414-287-0207, x30

Laurel O’Sullivan - LMF 312-939-0838, ext 3

Nancy Stoner - NRDC 202-289-2394

Dr. Joan Rose - MSU 517-432-4412


Milwaukee Blending Poses Real Health Risks.



Milwaukee Blending Poses Real Health Risks


MILWAUKEE (February 19, 2004) –The Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District’s (MMSD’s) practice of mixing partially treated sewage with untreated sewage poses significant health threats for the City of Milwaukee, according to data released as part of a national report by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Friends of Milwaukee’s Rivers and the Lake Michigan Federation.  The groups have said this practice represents a departure from current treatment standards, which require full treatment for sewage except in emergency conditions such as hurricanes, and would violate the Clean Water Act. The Bush administration recently introduced a proposal that would legalize blending.


In Milwaukee, data obtained from the city’s public health department show spikes in the levels of waterborne parasites -- Cryptosporidium and Giardia -- and bacteria from monitored sewage treatment bypasses occurring in May and December 2003. Cryptosporidium is the parasite responsible for the disease outbreak in the city in 1993 that killed 54 people and sickened thousands more.   According to analysis of the Milwaukee data by Joan Rose, a microbiologist at Michigan State University and an expert on waterborne illness, the risk of contracting giardiasis from untreated parasites in blended wastewater is 1000 times higher than from fully treated wastewater


 “In Milwaukee, a spokesperson for the sewage district belittled our concerns about blended sewage, saying that we were imagining ’boogeymen’ in the water.  Thanks to this national report and the monitoring of the Milwaukee Health Department we know the names of those boogeymen - Cryptosporidium and Giardia” says Lynn Broaddus, Executive Director of Friends of Milwaukee’s Rivers. 


“We now know blending is not the benign practice its been made out to be.  Its time for the State to  protect the citizens of Milwaukee from further risks by imposing stricter standards for when MMSD is allowed to blend, including requiring Deep Tunnel capacity to be more fully utilized.”  says Laurel O’Sullivan, staff counsel for Lake Michigan Federation. “ In addition, the State should develop protective water quality criteria and make this type of information more readily available to the public so they can choose whether they really want to risk a day at the beach after blending occurs.”


 “Waterborne disease outbreaks are on the rise across the country,” said Michele Merkel of the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) which co-authored the report. “Most often, Americans get diarrhea, skin rashes or respiratory infections, but waterborne illness can threaten the lives of seniors, young children, cancer patients, and others with impaired immune systems. Now is the time to boost funding to protect Americans, not cut it.”


The report, “Swimming in Sewage,” features seven case studies from around the country that illustrate how exposure to sewage pollution has killed or seriously injured people and harmed local economies. The case studies are from California, Florida, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin and Washington, D.C.


“We have a looming public health crisis on our hands that will take billions of dollars to fix,” said Nancy Stoner, director of NRDC’s Clean Water Project. “Fortunately we do have the technological know-how to deal with this sewage problem. What we don’t have is political will. In fact, President Bush’s new budget proposal dramatically slashes funding for wastewater infrastructure. At nearly $500 million, it’s his biggest cut for any environmental program, and it’s indefensible.”


Stoner added that the result of the proposed federal cut would be more beach closings, more polluted drinking water supplies, and more waterborne disease, which now sickens nearly 8 million Americans every year.


The report concludes with recommendations to address America’s sewage problem. NRDC and the EIP urge the Bush administration to drop its new blending policy, establish a national clean water trust fund to assist communities to provide effective sewage treatment, set standards for Cryptosporidium and Giardia and other currently unregulated water pollutants that make people sick, and enforce Clean Water Act requirements that would prevent raw sewage discharges.


The full report can be found at: http://www.nrdc.org/water/pollution/sewage/contents.asp

Pages 50 – 54 of the report focus on Milwaukee specifically. 


# # # #


Friends of Milwaukee’s Rivers’ mission is to protect water quality and wildlife habitat in the river corridors and to advocate for sound land use in our watersheds. FMR is a member of the Waterkeeper Alliance, a national coalition dedicated to protecting and restoring our nation’s waterways. Visit www.mkeriverkeeper.org.


Formed in 1970, the Lake Michigan Federation is the oldest citizens’ Great Lakes organization in North America. Its mission is to restore fish and wildlife habitat, conserve land and water, and eliminate pollution in the watershed of the largest lake within U.S. borders. More on the Federation is available at www.lakemichigan.org.


The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, nonprofit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has more than 1 million members and e-activists nationwide, served from offices in New York, Washington, Santa Monica and San Francisco. More information is available at NRDC’s Web site, http://www.nrdc.org/.


The Environmental Integrity Project is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization established in March 2002 to advocate for more effective enforcement of environmental laws. The organization was founded by Eric Schaeffer, former director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Regulatory Enforcement, with support from the Rockefeller Family Fund and other foundations. More information is available at the organization’s Web site, http://www.environmentalintegrity.org.