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The Milwaukee Harbor Estuary Modeling Bacteria Source, Transport and Fate (BSTF) study (CDM/HydroQual, 2004) is one component of Milwaukee Harbor Estuary water quality analyses that will develop an integrated water quality modeling framework. This framework is designed to address water quality issues confronting the Milwaukee area and meet the planning needs of the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission's (SEWRPC) Regional Water Quality Management Plan (RWQMP), the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District's (MMSD) 2020 Facilities Plan, and the District's BSTF Analysis (this study). In addition, the integrated modeling framework may ultimately provide a tool for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) to evaluate future watershed-related water quality management issues such as the development of Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs). The estuary water quality modeling is intended to provide a tool to evaluate water quality and water movement (circulation/dispersion) in the estuary, harbor and near shore area of Lake Michigan to provide a quantitative assessment of bacteria source impacts on area beach water quality.

The recreational use of lake beaches has gathered the most attention over the past several years since there have been an increased number of beach closings in the area. Beaches are closed in both wet and dry periods for a variety of reasons but the local media and public typically correlate beach closings with combined sewer overflow (CSO) events. Decisions to close beaches can be based on a number of reasons including excessive algal densities (mats and scums), debris (dead fish, garbage, pet waste), storm events of a given size that require beach closure, and bacteria concentrations in excess of State standards. Therefore, beach closures are not always related to elevated bacteria concentrations and when they are, the source of the bacteria causing the closing is not always obvious. Potential sources of bacteria are urban stormwater runoff, point sources, and shore bird (gulls) nesting areas.

The primary purposes for completing the BSTF study was to assess the impact of bacteria sources on area beaches and on a more regional basis, as well as evaluate whether impacts can potentially occur outside of the Milwaukee area. In addition, a monitoring program was implemented to investigate the use of antibiotic resistance and caffeine tracking techniques for determining bacteria sources in the study area and also to define near shore sources of bacteria.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2004

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