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How Clean Is The Milwaukee River?

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Photo Credit: Instagram, @dimitri.pappa⠀

This post is sponsored by our partners for a cleaner environment at MMSD.


For decades, Milwaukee was known as the ‘machine shop of the world’. Tanneries, breweries, and manufacturing plants dumped their industrial waste into the nearest river.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

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The legacy chemicals found deep in the river sediments, like PCBs, mercury, coal tar, and heavy metals, are still there.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

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However, according to MMSD, today our rivers are much cleaner thanks to initiatives like the building of the deep tunnel system, dam removal projects, and habitat restoration efforts.

People are back to kayaking, boating, and fishing, signs of an improved quality of life.

Still, the US EPA estimates that there are approximately 1.4 million cubic yards of sediment that needs to be removed from the waterways (Milwaukee, Menomonee, and Kinnickinnic Rivers and the harbor) to meet public health, environmental, and navigational needs.

They are proposing to spend roughly $270 million to dredge and pump the contaminated river sediment through a pipeline for the sediments to be stored in the Dredged Material Management Facility (DMMF).

Kevin Shafer of MMSD says “This vacuum-type dredging operation will eliminate the need for trucks to haul away the sediments reducing the impacts to residents, traffic concerns, greenhouse gas emissions, and will save approximately one million gallons of diesel fuel.”

When completed, the DMMF project will create 42-acres of new land on the shore of Lake Michigan along with removing the risk associated with the contaminated sediments in our rivers.

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How Can You Help?

You can help them keep the rivers free of hazardous waste by disposing of household chemicals properly. Old paint, nail polish, cleaners, and other chemicals need to be discarded of properly.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

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MMSD has several year-round drop off sites. There is a brand new one at 6060 S. 13th St., just north of College Ave. It’s open every Saturday from 8am – 2pm, and every Tuesday from 11am – 6pm. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

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Find out more at www.mmsd.com.⠀⠀⠀

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