The World According to Nick
My take on Software, Technology, Politics, and anything else I feel like talking about.
Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don't 

So the MMSD dumped more crap into the lake again, and are short of good reasons as usual. The MMSD, and the infamous "Deep Tunnel" (Freudian interpretations aside) are good blog fodder I suppose. In fact, on more than one occasion I have complained about their dumping myself. The one basic question that always comes up when discussing the Deep Tunnel is... why on Earth would you want a combined sewer and storm drain system anyway? The solution seems so obvious. Simply separate the two, and our pollution problems go away! On at least one occasion, I've even floated that idea... until I remembered living in California.

In most cities in Southern California (I was born in Santa Barbara), they have a separate storm and sewer system. The storm drains flow to various runoff basins throughout the area (popular for skateboarding during the dry seasons), which then run directly to the ocean. The problem with this system, is that rain water isn't the only thing that runs into the storm drains. You also have stuff like this:

Remember, when you have a separate system, none of this waste will be treated. So where does it end up?

That's why its not uncommon to find things like cups, cans, and syringes on the beaches in Southern California. Don't forget too, that unlike Los Angeles, Milwaukee has to deal with winter runoff from melting snow which contains road salt going into the drain systems. Left untreated, all that salt, along with other road chemicals would flow directly into the lake. Of course, that leads one to ask. Which is worse? The picture above of a river flowing into the Pacific ocean, or this picture of Lake Michigan after an MMSD dump:

The fact is, there are no easy answers. If there were, we would have done it already.


There was an episode of 'Dirty Jobs' on Discovery this last weekend that showed the storm water drains in LA being cleaned out. Talk about disgusting. The guy from the LA DPW that did it said that he has found all of the usual stuff (Syringes, diapers, guns, bodies, and knives) but had also found 4 million in counterfeit bills, TVs, PCs, and just some of the weirdest stuff.

It was a good episode and made me think twice about seperating the storm run offs and sewers.

  Posted at April 04, 2006 7:17 PM by Blogger Clint  
You also will get oil and gas from leaky cars running from roads into the storm drain, which won't get treated as it goes into the lake.

One of things that you get used to hearing in California are the reports of closed beaches, which typically occur after large rains because all that rain carries a ton of crap into the ocean, and you get really dangerous bacteria counts.

Sound familiar?

  Posted at April 04, 2006 8:52 PM by Blogger Nick  
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Name: Nick
Home: Wauwatosa, WI, United States

I'm a Software Consultant in the Milwaukee area. Among various geeky pursuits, I'm also an amateur triathlete, and enjoy rock climbing. I also like to think I'm a political pundit.

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