Listing Guideline

When waters, which are commonly used for total-body contact or partial-body contact recreation, exceed standards, objectives, or guidelines for such use.

Delisting Guideline

When waters, which are commonly used for total-body contact or partial body-contact recreation, do not exceed standards, objectives, or guidelines for such use.

Delisting Targets

  • All known sources of bacterial contamination to the AOC and tributary watersheds have been identified and, if feasible, have been controlled or treated to reduce possible exposures; and
  • No unpermitted overflows (either from sanitary sewers or combined sewers) have occurred within the AOC during the previous five year period.
  • All municipalities within the AOC have adopted and are implementing storm water reduction programs including an illicit discharge elimination program; and
  • No water bodies within the AOC are included on the list of impaired waters due to contamination with pathogens or chemicals having a public health concern (i.e., carcinogenic, mutagenic) in the most recent Wisconsin Impaired Waters list that is submitted to USEPA every two years; and
  • No local or state contact advisories related to the presence of a chemical contaminant have been issued within the AOC during the previous five years.
  • No water bodies (including beaches) within the AOC are included on the list of impaired waters for recreational restrictions in the most recent Wisconsin Impaired Waters list.
  • Implementation of the Milwaukee River Total Maximum Daily Load Study for bacteria is complete.

Sources of Pollution or Problem

  • Contaminated sediments; spills of chemicals within the watershed; atmospheric deposition
  • Sediment, nutrients, and bacteria as a result of nonpoint, or diffuse, sources of pollution; urban stormwater runoff; sewer overflows; noncontact cooling water

Remediation Actions

Milwaukee County has continued their work on planning improvements to South Shore Park. Designs are currently being prepared for stormwater best management practices and parking lot reconstruction.

Work by Sandra McLellan’s lab at the UWM SFS continued on the “Identification and Quantification of Sanitary Sewage Contamination in the Milwaukee Estuary AOC” or bacterial source tracking project. The project has three objectives, which provide critical information needed to address this impairment. The objectives are:

  1. Map and sample stormwater outfalls along the lower Menomonee and Kinnickinnic and perform up the pipe investigations to identify illicit discharges.
  2. Quantify amount of sewage contamination loads at three locations in the Menomonee Kinnickinnic, and Milwaukee Rivers and at the estuary.
  3. Fill data gaps and interface with TMDL efforts to prioritize implementation strategies.

The project addresses significant impediments to TMDL implementation by identifying infrastructure failures and assisting decision-makers in determining their policy priorities for stormwater management and infrastructure investment. WDNR has extended the agreement with UWM SFS to through 2016.

Moving Forward

The following actions need to be completed in order to determine contamination related management actions.

  • Reviewing the mapping and reporting from the bacterial source tracking project will help guide efforts to plan actions that will improve water quality in the estuary. Disseminating the results to stakeholders involved in the process will also be important.
  • Reviewing the output of the bacterial TMDLs for the AOC will provide important information in decision making for this impairment. The TMDL has been delayed and is expected to be completed in 2016
  • Working with Milwaukee County to plan and implement projects to address high bacterial levels at South Shore beach. Improving conditions at the beach will be an important step in addressing this impairment.
  • When and where it is feasible, actions should be taken to control sources of bacteria that cause recreational restrictions on AOC waters.

A complete list of management actions that are necessary to move towards removing this impairment has not been defined. Decisions on management actions can begin when the results of the TMDLs and bacteria source tracking are available.


Bacterial levels will continue to increase as infrastructure ages and lateral sewer lines continue to fail, posing a significant obstacle toward making progress on the recreational restrictions portion of this impairment.

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