In 1992 Bill Clinton had a problem. He was running against a popular incumbent, George H W Bush, who had just successfully concluded the First Gulf war, and was overseeing the end of the Cold War.
James Carville, a part of the Clinton team, had the insightful clarity to see that although Bush was successful on the foreign front, the country was suffering a recession, and the voters were not happy with the domestic economy.
Carville correctly deduced that an emphasis on that issue could swing the vote enough to Clinton's favor,
So that the campaign did not get too far off track on other issues that would be less germane, Carville coined a phrase that became the campaign's mantra --- "It's the economy, stupid".
In the Sewage Campaign that the Northshore suburbs of Shorewood and Whitefish Bay (among others) are waging to keep Raw Sewage from backing up into basements, there is a lack of clarity as to what the priorities are.
Shorewood and Whitefish Bay have been taking a slow and methodical "shotgun" approach to the sewage problem. The main messages that have been put out by the respective Village Boards are:
a) It is not their fault, prior Village Boards did not do their jobs.
b) It is all the fault of MMSD and/or their deep tunnel.
c) It is a freak of nature and could not be avoided.
d) The citizens are to blame for not disconnecting downspouts (which under village code was illegal until recently) or fixing their laterals.
Now almost a year since many families found 2 or 3 feet or more of raw sewage in their basements, the Villages are claiming that they are finally ready to take some action. Kind of!
Whitefish Bay was expecting to have a comprehensive a study of the village sanitary and storm sewer systems ready in April, but have now announced that prior work was not done properly and the study will not be completed until October. So much for working on sewage backups from last July in hopes of avoiding or moderating them this summer.
Both villages are working to add sewer lines, work on basins, enlarge sewer lines, make new connections, work on downspout connections, and debate about the Laterals.
None of the projects or plans of either village promises to stop Raw Sewage from coming up into the basements any time soon.
Shorewood's Village Board and Administration are taking an approach that is projected to cost at least $71.5 Million and take 25 years --- and gives a back seat to work on the Laterals.
WHY ARE THE LATERALS THE MOST IMPORTANT ELEMENT OF THE PROBLEM?
Certainly not because I say so, I do not have the experience or background that qualifies me to come to that conclusion. But I do respect for those who do have the experience and background.
1) MMSD -- MMSD is taking the “lateral” problem so seriously, that it is planning on spending $151 million on the problem. Kevin Shafer, head of MMSD said “About 50 percent of this wet weather water, the storm water that we see coming into the system is coming from private property, so when we have a large storm event we start sending water to the tunnel, about half of that water from the separate sewer area is from these private property pipes,”
2) SHOREWOOD'S ENGINEER --- in a public sewer backup meeting, Shorewood's hired engineer who was there to discuss the problem agreed that ”if all of the laterals were fixed and the foundation water drains were disconnected from the sewer system, and sump pumps were utilized, the immediate problem would be solved without the need to dig up the sewer systems"
3) JOURNAL SENTINEL --- O. Ricardo Pimentelo, an editorial columnist in the March 23, 2011 publication "But much of our overflow and basement backup problems are because of all our leaky private pipes" (Laterals).
4) WAUWATOSA -- Wauwatosa engineers conducted a study of their sewer system, which is akin in age and construction of Whitefish Bay's and Shorewood's (in the older parts) and they found that FOUR TIMES as much rainwater was getting into the sewers through leaking laterals, than was getting into the storm system.
Personally, I do not want to wait for Shorewood's 25 year plan to take effect --- I would like to stop the Sewer Backups NOW --- or at least START working on the root cause of the Sewer Backups -- the LATERALS.
Just how long, and how many studies will it take for the Village Boards and Administrations of Shorewood and Whitefish Bay to understand ---------- IT'S THE LATERALS STUPID !