Water Quality at Whitefish Dunes State Park

On Sunday, June 21, 2009 A.D., the first day of Summer, I went to the beach determined to get wet.

As soon as I stepped on the beach at Whitefish Dunes State Park in Door County, Wisconsin, my nose knew something was wrong.  Raw sewage.  The water was a thick soup of disgusting green algae, and the rocks near the beach smelled of raw sewage.  Not even my feet got wet that day.  Disappointing.

I figured the sewage came from the usual suspects: Milwaukee or Chicago, but who knows.  Everybody has sewage, but not everyone accidentally dumps it into public waterways.  Anyway, I spent my time hiking and taking pictures of seagulls.

On Tuesday, June 24, 2009 A.D., the following news blurb appeared in the Appleton Post-Crescent:

The Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District says heavy rains caused 935.7 million gallons of sewage and storm-water from combined sewers to be dumped into area waterways.

The district noted that overflows happened because of severe storms early Friday …  It said intense rainfall quickly filled the 405-million-gallon Deep Tunnel, which can hold sewage for later treatment.

The district estimated that overflows from combined sewers only contain 5 percent to 15 percent of raw sewage and water from homes.

The wording of the news blurb is funny but typical.  Whew!  What a relief!  According to estimates, only 5 to 15 percent of the overflow was raw sewage.  Let’s see, 5% of 936 million gallons is only 47 million gallons of raw sewage.

47 to 140 million gallons of raw sewage.  From one city.  In one day.