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Department of Justice and Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District To Submit Settlement To Court For Approval
MADISON - The Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD) and the Wisconsin Department of Justice have agreed to settle a lawsuit filed by the state alleging unlawful overflows from the MMSD's sanitary sewers. MMSD is the last of the 30 municipal defendants to seek to settle the Department of Justice's environmental lawsuit filed several years ago alleging unlawful sanitary sewage overflows (SSOs) occurring primarily during a period of wet weather in the spring of 2004.
The 29 previously settling municipal defendants, referred to in this context as Tributary Communities, all discharge their sewage into MMSD's collection and treatment system. Claims against the 29 Tributary Communities were settled in early 2006. The claims that MMSD and the Department of Justice have agreed to settle today were scheduled to go to trial on July 7, 2008. Once the settlement is submitted to the Court, the Honorable Richard J. Sankovitz of the Milwaukee County Circuit Court will decide whether to approve the settlement.
In the years since the massive sewer overflows of 2004, MMSD has taken numerous steps and committed to other actions which the State believes will operate, when fully implemented, to prevent a recurrence of sanitary sewer overflows during the kind of prolonged wet weather experienced that spring. Many of these improvements were and are being made pursuant to a 2002 stipulation which contained an extensive schedule of corrective actions to be performed by MMSD on a fixed schedule at the estimated cost of more than hundreds of millions of dollars. In addition, MMSD has completed and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has approved a plan (the "2020 Facility Plan") that is designed to ensure compliance with the federal Clean Water Act and Wisconsin water pollution control laws through 2020. The 29 Tributary Communities who settled in early 2006 have also implemented the improvements they committed to under their settlement agreement. Taken together, the State expects these settlements to greatly improve the wet weather performance of sewage collection and treatment throughout the MMSD, providing additional protection of water quality and public health.
In addition to the continuing implementation of the 2002 Stipulation and the 2020 Facility Plan, MMSD will pay a total of $500,000 according to the settlement agreement entered today to resolve its potential liability to the State for the more than 60 SSOs alleged in the court case to have been unlawful. That amount includes penalties, the cost of reconstructing some existing parking lots near the Milwaukee River using runoff-reducing "green technology," and MMSD's payment of various costs of the prosecution as specifically authorized by state water pollution control statutes.
The DNR originally investigated the case and referred the matter to the DOJ for prosecution. In consideration of the Department of Justice's internal conflicts policy, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen recused himself from participation in this matter due to the prior involvement of a former law partner in a closely related case. By delegation, Deputy Attorney General Raymond P. Taffora approved the settlement on behalf of the State and Assistant Attorneys General Thomas Dosch and Diane Milligan represented the State in this matter.