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Fixing the problems with Milwaukee's sewer system will be "complex, expensive and time-consuming" but must be done, U.S. EPA acting enforcement chief Thomas Skinner said earlier this week.
"Almost every city on the Great Lakes has problems, but Milwaukee's are of a level that are significantly greater than many other cities," said Skinner, the agency's current head of the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.
On May 19, Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District officials said they discharged more than 1.5 billion gallons of raw sewage—the second largest amount since 1997—into local streams and Lake Michigan since May 13. Following the announcement, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett ordered an audit of the sewerage district's plans for its proposed $900 million sewer improvement project. Later that week, a sewerage district spokesman said the district dumped more than it stated. The district dumping since May 13 was the largest raw sewage dumping of all sewer systems along the lake, according to data released by the state Department of Natural Resources.
"Whether this was a once-in-five-year event or a once-in-95-year event, dumping that kind of volume into the lake is not acceptable," Skinner said. He added that there is currently no EPA funding set aside to help the city fix its sewers.