We Monitor

Since 2008, Milwaukee Riverkeeper, in partnership with researchers from the UWM- School of Freshwater Sciences, has extensively monitored bacteria levels from storm sewers emptying into portions of the Menomonee and Kinnickinnic River Watersheds.

The Project:

Our monitoring area includes:

Menomonee River Watershed

1) The mainstem of the Menomonee River from Burleigh Street south to Hawley Road

2) Honey Creek from S 84th St northeast to it’s confluence with the Menomonee River in Hart Park in Wauwatosa

3) Underwood Creek from W Bluemound Rd northeast to it’s confluence with theMenomonee River near Hansen Park in MIlwuakee

We chose to monitor the stormwater outfalls along these river sections because previous in-stream water quality monitoring and modeling show bacteria levels in this section of the Menomonee can be up to 1,000 times higher than what we would expect from normal stormwater runoff.

Kinnickinnic River Watershed

1) Kinnickinnic River Mainstem from S 60th St, east to S 6th St

2) Wilson Park Creek from General Mitchell Airport, northwest to it’s confluence with the Kinnickinnic River near S 31st St.

3) Lyons Park Creek from Lyons Park in southern Milwaukee, north to it’s confluence with the Kinnickinnic River near S 60th and Kinnickinnic River Parkway

4) Villa Mann Creek from W Bolivar Ave northeast to it’s confluence with Wilson Park Creek in Wilson Park, Milwaukee

5) Holmes Avenue Creek from W Edgerton Ave northeast to it’s confluence with Wilson Park Creek near W Layton Ave and S Howell Ave in southern Milwaukee.

From 2008 – 2010, we’vetested 246 total outfalls across both watersheds and 168 of these were tested specifically for human sanitary sewage inputs using genetic testing: the numbers are startling.

Lab results show that 33% of these outfalls have tested positive for human strains of Bacteroides (bacteria strains found in the human gut, most likely originating from failing sanitary sewer infrastructures and private sanitary sewer laterals). Large quantities of human bacteria may indicate a higher risk of pathogens in the water, including coincidental waterborne pathogenic diseases such as ear infections, dysentery, typhoid fever, viral and bacterial gastroenteritis, and Hepatitis A.

Given these findings, Milwaukee Riverkeeper is committed to working with the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD), municipalities, and government agencies to “go up the pipe” to determine the exact points of sewage entering into the storm water sewer system. We are collaborating with Dr. Sandra McClellan’s lab at the UWM School of Freshwater Sciences and MMSD to further identify problem areas, conduct additional monitoring and investigation, and to fix bacteria problems arising from tainted storm water outflows. Significantly, MMSD recently found and fixed two problem pipes (one on Honey Creek and one on the Kinnickinnic River), leading to measurable improvements in water quality.

In short, Milwaukee Riverkeeper and its partners are dedicated to using the most current science to strategically pinpoint sources of bacterial contamination and to advocate for the financial resources needed for municipalities to fix these problems so that we can have safe, clean, “swimmable” rivers. We are grateful to the Joyce Foundation and Brico Fund for their support of this important work, as well as to our partners at the Southeastern Wisconsin Watersheds Trust.

Interested in becoming a streaming monitor?
Contact Joe or Christina! Just scream really loud, someone will hear you.