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”.