Sewage dumps show need for lakes’ metrics

Great LakesThe numbers for raw sewage dumping from Milwaukee and Chicago shine a light on the need for a dashboard of Great Lake metrics. Chicago dumps twice as much as Milwaukee.
The numbers surfaced in a legal settlement between the EPA and the Chicago reclamation district that calls for two massive reservoirs to be built over the next 17 years to catch to store the raw sewage for treatment.
In the years 2007 through 2010, Chicago bypassed an average of five billion gallons per year, while Milwaukee dumped an average of two billion gallons. Neither is acceptable; hence the EPA agreement that will require an additional $400 million on the two reservoirs.
Chicago has spent more than $3 billion on 109 miles of deep tunnels, while Milwaukee has invested some $2 billion on its 28.5 miles. Both investments are worth it. The five Great Lakes contain 95% of the nation’s fresh waters and 20% of the world’s.
These treasures really aren’t lakes; they are inland seas.
Some metrics have surfaced through good journalism, such as Dan Egan’s reporting on the invasive species explosion in the Lakes. At last count, there are at least 180 foreign species in the lakes, mostly brought in by ocean going ships in their ballast waters. The Asian carp would add to that number if they get by the electric barriers in the Chicago Waterway.
We need to know those numbers, and the need to be widely publicized.
I know various Great Lakes scientists are keeping various metrics, but they are awfully quiet about their work.
Some entity needs to take the leadership as keeper of the metrics. The Great Lakes Commission is the logical place. But it could be The Nature Conservancy or the new College of Fresh Water Science at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee.
The various metrics, including measures of water purity, clarity, contamination and levels, need to be collected in one place so concerned citizens and their leaders can identify problems and address them.
There’s an old rule in management science: if you ain’t measuring it, you ain’t managing it.

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