Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Local Blogger Succumbs to Stockholm Syndrome

The MMSD spent over two billion dollars to prevent the dumping of sewage into Lake Michigan without letting it into people's basements.

The deep tunnel was designed to withstand everything but the rare "100 year storm."

Turns out that storm turns out to be weekly.

MMSD now says it will take years to do what the deep tunnel was designed to do.*

But Cory Liebmann is so happy.

When he returned to the city after last week's storm, almost all of the water had drained from his basement. And, then, it took the city only hours to haul away all the stuff that got ruined. His heart is warmed by what his tax dollars have done for him.

Thank you, sir, may I have another?

*Don't even try to tell me that this is an new problem attributable to "leaks" into privately owned sanitary sewer lines. Every one was aware of infiltration and inflow when the deep tunnel was designed.


Nick said...

And think of all the temporary jobs that were created in order to help clean up the mess! Bastiat would be envious!

Cory Liebmann said...

You must have very little material this week to be making this blog posting about me.

Yes, while I was not home it was very encouraging and informative for me to see that City officials were fully engaged on every level to deal with the emergency. So sue me.

It was also nice to be completely finished with the results of the flood within 24 hours of getting home. I appreciate the work that City workers did and how fast they did it. I don't see why that is a bad thing.

I very rarely have flooding problems, so as much as you want to demonize MMSD, that has not been my personal experience and I shouldn't be expected to join you in it.

Remember my blog posting was my own thoughts and personal experience with this flood...not some broad policy statement about MMSD.

John Foust said...

The lesson? You're supposed to curse government-provided services. Darn that tap water! Darn that toilet that flushes!

Rick Esenberg said...

Cory, I'm sorry but I had to read it twice to makes sure that it wasn't satire. I don't "demonize" MMSD (I have known many fine people who worked there), but it's pretty clear that the deep tunnel isn't working like it was supposed to and this results, sometimes in water in basements, but mostly contaminated water in the lake.

The lesson, I think, is about the danger of thinking that a single team of experts can devise a single solution to a problem and the hazards of confirmation bias. Since Milwaukee controls the MMSD, I imagine that it did not want to contemplate seperating the combined sewers.

xoff said...

The deep tunnel is simply a storage system with a capacity of something like 400 million gallons. When it is full, it overflows. There is not a sewage system in the world that could have handled the amount of rainfall we got in that short a period, no mattter how many more billions you spend.

Jay Bullock said...

The Deep Tunnel wasn't meant to stop all dumping, and to claim it was is a lie, Rick. Bruce Murphy reminds us:
The truth is that the Deep Tunnel works as planned and Milwaukee has one of the best sewage treatment systems in the country. Prior to the Deep Tunnel’s construction, Milwaukee spilled 19 times more sewage into the lake than is does now, some 8.5 billion gallons of sewage per year, compared to less than 450 million gallons per year today. Milwaukee went from averaging 60 or more overflows per year to less than two, just as planners had expected.

An inch of rain equals 17.4 million gallons over a square mile. The City of Milwaukee covers about 97 square miles. So when one inch of rain falls, 1.7 billion gallons falls just on the city of Milwaukee. And when rainfall is one inch at a time, dumping doesn’t happen anymore thanks to the Deep Tunnel.

Average July rainfall in Milwaukee is 3.6 inches. Last week, we had twice that in about two hours, onto already saturated ground. So 12 billion gallons of rain fell onto the city of Milwaukee last Thursday, and MMSD handled 10 billion of that.

That’s admirable, in my estimation.

Rick Esenberg said...

I don't know where Murphy gets his data, but it doesn't seem to track what MMSD itself reports which is more like an average of 1.3 billion gallons from 1994 to 2010 (so far). That is a huge reduction from prior to the completion of the Deep Tunnel, but it is not the performance that was expected. The tunnel was designed to handle all but the 100 year storm. It hasn't worked out that way.

Jay's comment refects a misunderstanding of the problem. MMSD did not "handle" 10 billion gallons of rainwater. Even in Milwaukee, most of that water never enters the sanitary sewer system and, in a modern sewer system, very litte would because the sanitary and storm sewers would be seperated (as they are in a good part of the city and all of the suburbs with the exception of Shorewood. There is always going to be some storm water leaking into sanitary sewers but our problem stems largely from the continued existence of combined storm and sanitary sewers. The Deep Tunnel was supposed to solve that problem except for the rare and exceptional storm. For whatever reason, it hasn't.

Anonymous said...

It's "separated," Professor.

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