8 communities plus MMSD report sewer overflows

Published on: 7/15/2010

Milwaukee, Mequon, Wauwatosa, Cudahy, Shorewood, Brown Deer, Fox Point and Elm Grove - in addition to the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District - reported sanitary sewer overflows to local waterways Thursday morning after overnight thunderstorms poured up to 5 inches of rain on the metropolitan area, a state environmental official said.

Sanitary sewer overflows generally prevent sewage backups into basements and reduce property damage, MMSD officials said.

Even so, overflows of separate sanitary sewers are prohibited by the federal Clean Water Act, said James Fratrick, watershed specialist with the Department of Natural Resources in Milwaukee.

But the DNR is not likely to take enforcement actions against MMSD and the eight municipalities, Fratrick said. The primary reason is that MMSD is under a court-ordered stipulation to complete an estimated $1 billion in sewer and treatment plant improvements by the end of this year, he said. The goal of making those improvements is to reduce the incidents of sanitary sewer overflows.

Communities served by the district are under a separate court order to decrease leaks of storm water into their sanitary sewers.

One exception that could trigger enforcement is a finding of negligence in operating the district or municipal systems during the storms but he is not aware of any negligence at this time, Fratrick said.