Lake Michigan Condoms

Milwaukee Making Progress on Stray Condoms

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- After spending more than $1.8 million for a temporary system to catch stray condoms slipping through a sewage treatment plant, a Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District spokesman says officials are fairly confident a majority of condoms are now being caught before they can reach Lake Michigan.

Bill Graffin commented Thursday, more than two years after a fisherman reported seeing what he called a slick of thousands of condoms floating in the lake following a heavy rainstorm in April of 2003.

Initially, a single laborer armed with a swimming pool skimmer was posted at the chlorine tanks at the Jones Island treatment plant to capture condoms that survived earlier phases of screening at the plant.

The manual scooping was supplemented during the summers of 2003 and 2004, when MMSD also had the crew of the district's 43-foot research boat fishing for condoms that made it through the plant and into the harbor.

A system of 24 large nets to catch condoms was installed early last year, but officials say they clog with algae and other debris, requiring them to be changed every two or three weeks. But district officials say the net system is meant to be only a short-term fix.

They say "bar screens" with three-quarter-inch spacing which act as a sieve at the front of the plant, where raw sewage enters, will be replaced with screens with quarter-inch spacing, but that $23 million effort is not expected to be completed until 2009.

"If we need to take more steps, we don't know what they would be," Graffin said.

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13 Responses:

  1. vxo says:

    The condoms in the lake after heavy rain sound like the fault of a CSO (Combined Sewage Overflow). When water levels get too high in the sewer system, overflow dams are breached and raw sewage flows down storm drains which drain straight to rivers, canals, lakes, etc. There's some discussion about this kind of drainage architecture inside Minneapolis's 'Triple Helix' drain; basically, the storm drainage lines run far below the sewers, and they're allowed to cross-flow.

    I suspect, though, that having the job of scooping used condoms out of raw sewage with a pool skimmer has to be the ABSOLUTE ROCK BOTTOM. If you've reached that point, you know your career can only go *up*... there's no way for it to get any worse. Ye gods, they need to just get something like a few Bandscreen Monsters and be done with the problem.

    Oddly, I can't remember ever seeing condoms floating in the pit when I used to work with my grandfather on sewage lift station pump controls. I just remember being *conveniently absent* when it came time to replace the float switches that dangled down in the abyss...

    • strspn says:

      I don't think you're going to be able to top the kickback potential of the $23 million replacement grates. Oh, I'm sorry. Screens.

    • fantasygoat says:

      I can think of worse things than being a Coney Island Whitefisherman.

      He probably gets to wear gloves.

    • usufructer says:

      The CSO in triple helix isn't that bad, compared to some in the TC. It's in St. Paul, by the way, not Minneapolis.

      I've seen more maxi pads in the sewers under St. Paul than condoms.

  2. karlshea says:

    MMSD is a joke. If they had spent the money that they're spending on positive publicity to make the sewage drainage and the Deep Tunnel better in the first place, we wouldn't have this problem. Of course, either way the conservatives in this city bitch.

    Fucking Milwaukee.

  3. This reminded me of an awesome quote from Dave Attell's "Insomniac", from the episode where he visited a shit processing plant. "We call 'em rainbow trout, you know, because the condoms come in many different colors".

  4. valacosa says:

    Stories like this remind me of how most people think of toilets.

    It's not a magic porcelain box where the contents simply disappear. That shit goes somewhere. It's meant for biodegradable things only - like feces, toilet paper, and goldfish.

    At the same time, I understand why condoms can't simply be thrown in the kitchen garbage. ("Mommy, what's that greasy balloon next to the onion skins?") The solution: biodegradable condoms. Hey, they can make biodegradable plastic out of corn, so don't say it's impossible...

  5. Somehow I think the new Pope will use this as a chance to preach on the evils of birth control.