MILWAUKEE, Wis. - Efforts to improve water quality throughout the Milwaukee basin will take another step forward as the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources begins accepting public comments on a draft plan to reduce phosphorus and other pollutants in the Menomonee, Kinnickinnic and Milwaukee rivers.
The plan, developed by the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District and its consultants with oversight from DNR and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, takes the form of a series of calculations known as the total maximum daily load or TMDL. The calculation represents the total load of pollutants that the waters can handle and still meet federal requirements. Development of the calculations is required for impaired waterways under the federal Clean Water Act as part of efforts to meet applicable water quality standards.
Kevin Kirsch, a DNR water resources engineer managing the project, said the effort has spanned five years and builds on previous watershed work conducted in the basin. The pollutants addressed in the calculations are phosphorous, fecal coliform bacteria and sediment.
"DNR appreciates the work of the Milwaukee sewerage district in developing the draft plan, which will serve as the framework to achieve cleaner water in the region," Kirsch said. "Communities, industries and agricultural producers already have made important strides in reducing pollutants that flow into the system and the draft plan provides credit for these efforts to date. However, there is still work to be done to achieve federal standards."
Under the draft plan, implementation for required stormwater reductions will be phased in through an extended compliance schedule of 20 years and possibly longer. Kirsch said DNR developed the extended compliance schedule in consultation with EPA to provide as much flexibility as possible for affected municipalities.
In some cases, the extended time period will allow for economically beneficial urban redevelopment efforts that incorporate best practices in stormwater management. Continued reductions in agricultural loads may be accomplished by working with county, state and federal partners as well as crop consultants to implement practices including nutrient management, manure management systems, tillage setbacks, buffers and other methods.
The Milwaukee basin, which covers parts of seven counties including Milwaukee, Waukesha, Ozaukee, Washington, Dodge, Sheboygan and Fond du Lac counties, includes 44 permitted municipal stormwater systems that will have different reduction levels beginning at 58 percent for total suspended solids and 14 percent for phosphorus.
The reduction levels cited in the draft plan do not take into account the full range of beneficial practices municipalities already have in place; as a result, the actual reduction at specific municipalities may be adjusted.
Approximately 150 industrial facilities and wastewater treatment plants also are covered under the draft plan. For phosphorus, effluent limits are either similar to or less restrictive than limits imposed under state requirements and total suspended solid limits are consistent with effluent quality needed to meet the phosphorus reductions.
Agricultural sources are limited to the upper portions of the Menomonee and Milwaukee watersheds. Building on nonpoint reductions already achieved through Wisconsin's nonpoint performance standards and both federal and state cost share programs, the draft plan sets reductions starting at 26 percent for total suspended solids and 12 percent for phosphorus.
"DNR fully recognizes the challenges in achieving these reductions and we intend to work with stakeholders on watershed planning efforts and develop benchmarks that are science-based and economically achievable for each permit term," Kirsch said.
On Thursday, DNR held meetings with permitted municipalities to discuss stormwater issues and the Milwaukee sewerage district will hold a public information meeting on July 25 at Wauwatosa City Hall building from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m.
The meeting by the Milwaukee sewerage district will be its final stakeholder meeting before DNR assumes responsibility for shepherding the TMDL plan through any adjustments and final approval by EPA. Additional public stakeholder meetings will be scheduled by DNR later this summer.
Comments on the initial draft plan may be submitted via DNRMilwaukeeBasinTMDL@wisconsin.gov or by mailing to:
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
101 S. Webster St.
PO Box 7921
Madison, WI 53707-7921