Trash that closed Michigan beaches in 2008, 2010 from Wisconsin

Nov 22, 2011

A couple of summers ago piles of trash washed up on the beaches of Lake Michigan from Pentwater to Portage. A federal investigation confirms the trash came all the way from Wisconsin.

The trash included medical supplies, small plastic pieces, chunks of wood; even whiskey bottles. Many beaches were closed at the time because of the trash.

Volunteers with the Alliance for The Great Lakes first reported the trash in 2008 and 2010 when they were out doing normal cleanup work.

"We’ve had many people in Michigan contacting us and asking ‘what ever happened about that?’ said Lyman Welch, Water Quality Program Manager for the Alliance.

Welch says it took around 6 months to get a hold of the investigation results. It shows the Milwaukee Waste Water Treatment Plant is responsible for the garbage. The plant released more than 2.5 billion total gallons of sewer overflow between the two incidents because of separate “catastrophic rainfall event(s)”. The investigation determined the plant didn’t break any laws.

“We need to do something about this now and not wait for the next wash-up to occur,” Welch said. The group outlined three steps it would like to see take place to help prevent such events from happening again:

•    State regulators must ensure that MMSD’s new discharge permit strengthens and implements the Capacity, Management, Operation and Maintenance program for MMSD and its service communities, includes enforceable timetables and conditions to meet federal CSO policy, and protects sensitive areas along Lake Michigan.

•    Wisconsin must adopt strong rules aimed at preventing sanitary sewer overflows. The Alliance, Milwaukee Riverkeeper and other partners started working with Wisconsin to develop strong new rules in 2006 and continue to urge official adoption of the proposed SSO rules, which have been finished since December 2010.

•    Congress must increase funding levels for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, the primary source of low-cost loans for upgrading infrastructure and reducing sewage overflows.