Jun. 17, 2004

Water Industry News

Milwaukee Sewage Tunnel Overtaxed

Construction delays and equipment shortcomings at the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District have helped make the system vulnerable to raw sewage dumping, a new report says.

A computerized control system that guides operation of the deep tunnel system remains unfinished, posing dumping dangers, says the May report by United Water Service, the private contractor that operates local sewers.

"The risks for operational problems and system overflows remain as the project delays continue," the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel quoted the May report as saying.

The system was supposed to have been installed about two years ago, but has been delayed for a variety of reasons, and the cost has ballooned by $1.5 million to about $13 million.

The report also said a $2 million project to install net-like devices at the Jones Island sewage treatment plant failed during an initial run in April.

United Water said equipment problems have possibly contributed to dumping.

In May, MMSD dumped 4.6 billion gallons of untreated sewage into Lake Michigan tributaries, and state regulators are considering filing a lawsuit against MMSD for the dumping.

But the sewerage district's officials say the entire system worked fine and that the dumping was solely due to excessive rainfall.

Mike Martin, technical services director for MMSD, said he was confident that enough of the new computer system was operational to take over if needed. However, testing of the new system will take another two weeks or so, he said. The risk of computer failure causing additional sewage dumping during the period is "negligible," he said.



Information from: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, http://www.jsonline.com