Fast Tracking Milwaukee's Stormwater Cleanup

by Harold P. Cahill, Jr., Exec. Dir.; Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, Milwaukee, Wisc.,
C. V. Gibbs, (M.ASCE), Sr. Vice Pres. and Regional Mgr.; CH2M Hill, Denver, Colo.,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1984, Vol. 54, Issue 6, Pg. 58-61

Document Type: Feature article


In building a massive sewer and treatment plant, Milwaukee solved legal and management problems. At the same time, the city speeded design and construction for the project. Triggered by the Clean Water Act, planning for Milwaukee's $1.7 billion Water Pollution Abatement Program started in 1977. Benefiting a 426 sq mile (1,103 km²) service area with a population of 1.1 million, it is the largest public works project in the history of Wisconsin and one of the country's largest wastewater treatment programs. In setting up the program, the sewerage district faced two court challenges. State and federal courts ordered Milwaukee to eliminate combined sewer overflows and to implement advanced waste treatment. But the city challenged the order successfully and was able to save money. In addition, the city set up a fast track approach to save more. The fast tracking in the beginning paid off; the district received $50 million and state grants for construction that might not have been available had the planning taken longer. Scheduling and budget constraints forced the district to take a concurrent rather than a sequential or linear approach to project design and construction. The city was also faced with developing public support. The district devised a financial plan that taxpayers would accept and that would keep the program on a fast track. Another innovative strategy was the city's assignment of responsibility for all planning, management and design to a single firm. Contractors were able to draw from their own staffs to meet shifting manpower needs, saving the district the expense of hiring permanent employees at greater cost.

Subject Headings: Tracking | Stormwater management | Water pollution | Waste treatment | Professional societies | Clean Water Act | History | Wastewater treatment | Wisconsin | United States

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