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.