Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District Recognized by US EPA

Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD) received a visit from David Ross, the Assistant Administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Water, on Earth Day. One of Ross’ top priorities is highlighting the importance of American water workers, and with MMSD’s nationally recognized status as a progressive sewage treatment plant, it was the perfect location to recognize their work.

MMSD has many programs to ensure that the health of Lake Michigan is restored and maintained, both to benefit the health of the surrounding environment and those who live on its shore. MMSD treats billions of gallons of sewage each year in a four step process that returns safe water to Lake Michigan. The District has treated a practically unheard of percentage of 98.4% of water and wastewater from its service area since 1994. EPA’s goal is for treatment plants to capture and treat 85% of wastewater, but MMSD aims to improve their record to 100% by 2035 through public education, collaboration with municipal governments, improvements to both grey and green infrastructure, and other initiatives.

MMSD’s infrastructure improvement goals include creating enough green infrastructure in the region to capture the first inch of rain that falls on MMSD’s service area and treat it where it falls, preventing it from ever entering the combined sewer or separated storm sewer systems. They have a variety of green infrastructure informational resources available to the public, funding sources available to public and private sector organizations, and even a Fresh Coast Guardians Resource Center designed to support the region as it implements projects aligning with this goal. 

This work is in line with EPA’s vision to promote innovative approaches to water management that attract a strong workforce in the water sector. Kevin Shafer, executive director of MMSD, connected the two agencies’ goals, saying “EPA’s focus on ensuring a diverse, qualified workforce aligns perfectly with MMSD’s long term 2035 Vision. MMSD understands that to continue to be an industry leader we need a competent workforce. Working today to provide the training of these workers will pay dividends for our region in the future.”

Ross highlighted his and EPA’s appreciation for these workers at MMSD’s Commission Meeting and accompanied Shafer on a visit to workers at the Jones Island Reclamation Facility. According to a press release from EPA, Ross called water utility operators both at MMSD and across the United States “everyday environmental heroes [who] tirelessly work… on the front lines to provide clean and safe water services to our communities while protecting our environment”.

2019 Great Lakes Public Forum to Convene in Milwaukee

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On June 17, the 2019 Great Lakes Public Forum will convene in Milwaukee, WI. These forums are a triennial occurrence dictated by the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement between the US and Canada. The two nations signed this agreement in 1972 in order to coordinate efforts to “restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity” of the Great Lakes. This original agreement focused on reducing algae in the Great Lakes through coordinated efforts by the two countries, and the next two decades saw a fall in phosphorus levels across the lakes. Over time, other issues were added to the goals of the agreement, including addressing toxic pollutants and improving the health of Areas of Concern.

The most recent update to the GLWQA occurred in 2012. This version of the agreement includes nine objectives that describe the attributes of improved water quality in the Great Lakes, including such qualities as being a source of safe, high-quality drinking water and supporting healthy and productive wetlands. One of the biggest changes from this update addresses the need for state and provincial governments, tribal governments, First Nations, Métis, municipal governments, watershed management agencies and the public to engage in addressing these issues and provide input to the International Joint Commission (IJC). The IJC advise the US and Canada with respect to the implementation of the GLWQA

The Forum is one of the engagement opportunities provided by the update and is a platform for the US and Canada to communicate to the public the state of the Great Lakes, progress being made under the Agreement, and the Parties’ science and action priorities for the next three years. The public is invited to give input to the IJC at the Forum at a public round table.

The 2019 Forum will run from the 17th through the 19th of June, beginning on the morning of the 17th with a Summary of the State of the Great Lakes. This summary is followed by sessions on each of of the Great Lakes environmental issues defined by the Ten Annexes of the GLWQA. Some of these issues include Areas of Concern, nutrients, and climate change impacts. Each session will will cover the same material surrounding each issue, including

  • A description of environmental indicators related to that issue

  • A description of how governmental organizations work together to implement related environmental restoration and protection actions

  • Examples of implementation success stories from Federal, State, Provincial, Tribal, First Nation, Métis, and community speakers

  • A description of the proposed priorities to guide related science and actions for the next three years

These sessions continue from the end of the first day to the beginning of the second, and the Forum concludes with the IJC’s Public Round Table. For a more detailed agenda, please follow this link.

Registration to attend the Forum will close on Friday, May 31, 2019.