A behind-the-scenes tour of Jones Island Water Reclamation Facility

Written by Julee Mitchell
    Monday, 10 June 2019
A behind-the-scenes tour of Jones Island Water Reclamation Facility

Earlier this month the Urban  Ecology Center staff had the opportunity to tour the Jones Island Water Reclamation Facility. We had a behind the scenes look at what happens to our wastewater and learned some interesting facts along the way.

The city of Milwaukee has a combined sewer system which means that both the sewage and the street runoff goes into a shared system where it’s treated and then discharged into the lake.

jonasisland2Kim, our Land Stewardship Manager, pointed out that combined systems are better because the oil and other pollutants that run off the streets are removed, whereas, in a non-combined system, these pollutants would travel directly back into our rivers. However, with the combined system, a heavy rain event sometimes causes an overflow and the mixture of rainwater and sewage must be released into Lake Michigan, but this has been drastically reduced since the completion of the deep tunnel. When this mixture is discharged, the brown color we see isn’t poop, it’s actually the lake sediment being stirred up from the amount of water being introduced.


UEC staff visiting the Jonas Island Water Reclamation Facility

There’s an app you can download here Water Drop Alerts which will alert you of heavy rain events so you help to not overload the system by not running the dishwasher or washing machine and by avoiding long showers during this time.

On the tour, we learned that the whole process from flush to finish is about 24 hours. The final results are:

1) Treated water that’s even cleaner than Lake Michigan water 

2) The creation of an environmentally friendly fertilizer by-product called Milorganite.

Thank you to our friends at Veolia for allowing us to go behind the scenes with them. If you’re interested in checking out the facility I recommend Doors Open Milwaukee when they’re open to the public, but get there early because it’s a highly popular destination and they give out free bags of Milorganite!

Julee Mitchell

Julee Mitchell

Julee works in the UEC Development Department where she strives to keep accurate records of donors and members. Before being hired as a staff member, Julee was an avid volunteer at the UEC helping with community events and programs. She has a graduate degree in Urban Planning from UW-Milwaukee and has a passion for sustainability. She enjoys travel, outdoor sports and leisure, yoga and spending time with her children. Her hobbies include organic gardening and keeping backyard chickens on her urban homestead.


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