Wednesday, July 28, 2010

2 Billion Gallons of Sewage

Millions. Billions.

674 million gallons is an enormous amount.

That massive dump was dwarfed by the 2 BILLION gallons of sewage that was poured into Lake Michgan and local waterways after last week's storm.

From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

More than 2 billion gallons of untreated sewage and storm water spilled out of urban sewers into local waterways after last Thursday's torrential rain storm, but even those overflows could not adequately relieve the sewers and prevent basement backups, the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District says in a report to state environmental officials.

"The relief points could not get excess rain and flood water out of overburdened sewers fast enough," the district says in a report released Tuesday to the state Department of Natural Resources. Three district rain gauges on Milwaukee's north side recorded total rainfall of more than 8 inches Thursday and Friday.

MMSD estimates total overflows of 2.1 billion gallons - more than four times the total capacity of the district's deep tunnel storage system - from regional sewers between Thursday evening and Sunday evening, said Peter Topczewski, the district's director of water quality protection. The volume does not include overflows from sanitary sewers in Milwaukee and nine other communities in the metropolitan area that had acknowledged problems last week.

Combined sanitary and storm sewers in central Milwaukee and eastern Shorewood spilled a total of 1.985 billion gallons of a sewage and storm water mix to rivers and Lake Michigan, the report says. District-controlled separate sanitary sewers spilled an additional 171 million gallons.

Most of the wastewater in sewers continues to flow to treatment plants during overflows. The district estimates that the deep tunnels and its Jones Island and South Shore sewage treatment plants will have stored and treated more than 3.2 billion gallons of wastewater from Thursday's storm, according to the report.

Even so, local communities reported thousands of sewage backups into residential basements caused by the storm, in addition to property damage from aboveground flooding.

MMSD, you have a problem.

Of course, MMSD isn't hauling sewage-soaked belongings out of homes or dealing with a car that's totaled. But MMSD definitely has a problem.

And Tom Barrett has a problem. During his 2004 campaign for mayor of Milwaukee, Barrett pinned the blame for overflows and the inadequate sewer system on his opponent, Marvin Pratt.

Barrett made it a campaign issue then. He can't wash his hands of the sewage now.

2 BILLION gallons!

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