Illinois congressman critical of Milwaukee's handling of sewage
Written by Associated Press   
Sunday, 02 April 2006 11:46

The accidental release of an estimated 800,000 gallons of partially treated sewage into Lake Michigan from Milwaukee drew a sharp response Thursday from an Illinois congressman who has been critical of the Wisconsin city's handling of sewage in the past.

"Milwaukee's massive sewerage dumping into Lake Michigan shows that city is a poor steward of our environment," said Rep. Mark Kirk, R-Highland Park. "We should find ways to upgrade Milwaukee's sewage system in the short run. I am also preparing federal legislation to set a date to ban all dumping in the Great Lakes."

The release Wednesday from Milwaukee's Jones Island Waste Treatment Plant occurred as the facility tested a new computer operating system, said Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District spokesman Bill Graffin.

Griffin said workers were testing gates for an underground channel at the plant Wednesday morning when the gates opened. They were closed in about 30 minutes, he said.

Dumping partially treated sewage in the lake is banned at most times, but is allowed during heavy rains or flooding.

Considering recent weather has been dry, the discharge could be in violation of the district's state operating permit, said Jane LeCapitaine, a spokeswoman for the private firm that runs the sewer system for the district.

LeCapitaine said the effluent was disinfected and solids had been filtered from it, but the sewage bypassed one of three treatment stages at the plant. It may take several days to determine if the concentration of the discharge also violated state pollution standards, she said.

Heavy rains in May 2004 led Milwaukee to discharge 1.7 billion gallons of untreated sewage into Lake Michigan, drawing heavy criticism from Kirk and Chicago Mayor Richard Daley.

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