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Both Sides of the Fence

A Tosa resident since 1991, Christine walks the dog, cooks but avoids housework, writes and reads, and enjoys the company of friends and strangers. Her job takes her around the state, learning about people's health. A Quaker (no, they don't wear blue hats or sell oatmeal or motor oil), she has been known to stand on both sides of the political and philosophic fence at the same time, which is very uncomfortable when you think about it. She writes about pretty much whatever stops in to visit her busy mind at the moment. One reader described her as "incredibly opinionated but not judgmental." That sounds like a good thing to strive for!

Waukesha's waste wends Wauwatosa way

Environment, Waukesha, Wauwatosa

Waukesha has bad water problems. It’s likely that they will soon be using Lake Michigan water. But now we learn that the city has unilaterally decided to send its wastewater—treated, whatever that means—back to the mother lake through Underwood Creek. Which happens to run practically through my back yard.You can read about it here.

Now, Underwood Creek is not a pristine tributary. When we moved here 17 years ago, there were crawfish in the concrete-lined creek, but they’ve been gone a long time. It smells bad sometimes in summer, and I’m glad my house is high enough to rise above the stench.

It’s hard to imagine that adding wastewater could improve that situation.

And it’s hard to imagine what impact the additional water might have on the not-yet-completed Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewage District project that created Swan Lake, aka the retention basins, on the County Grounds. That plan calls for some sort of “floodwater diversions structure” plus an underground tunnel plus a spillway structure to move the water around and back from creek to basin to Menomonee River and back again. It’s too complicated for me to figure out.

I asked Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter Darryl Enriquez, who wrote the article, who’s covered water issues for some time, and who’s a good friend of mine, about this.

What's with the Underwood Creek thing? And how does it link to the MMSD retention ponds project? Was this always the plan? And why would I want even treated sewage running past my house? Where do I find more?

Yes, your Underwood Creek might receive a wealth of treated wastewater courtesy of Waukesha. The added flow should improve the quality of the creek by increasing its (waste) water level. It’s not supposed to be a real deep flow.

Darryl!!! How does waste water improve the quality of the creek? You mean it's better quality than the runoff and storm stuff that's there now? And what does the stuff smell like? It sounds bad.

I know that it’s a hard concept to understand, but the main benefit is that wastewater will be a new source for the creek that currently has very low flow and cannot support much aquatic life. I’ve heard that Racine County conservationists would welcome the wastewater for the Root River because it would help the annual salmon run from Lake Michigan. My concern is that if Waukesha stops dumping wastewater into the Fox River, because it’s forced to send it east, what effect would it have on an important natural resource for central Waukesha County? About 70% of the Fox River flow is generated from wastewater from Brookfield, Sussex and Waukesha. Don’t forget, it’s not untreated sewage. It’s treated to state standards and is probably better than the fertilizer and road-dirt polluted storm water that’s in there now.

I love Darryl, but I’m not satisfied yet. Somebody has some more 'splainin' to do.

And I’m wondering why I’m not hearing about it here. Any Tosa folks involved in the planning? Does the Southeastern Wisconsin Watersheds Trust have an action team for plans that affect Wauwatosa? Do we need to form one?

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