PictureMilwaukee Water Treatment Facility, 1910
When Daniel W. Hoan was elected mayor in 1916, he asked the U.S. Public Health Service to examine the condition of Milwaukee’s water and see if they would recommend a filtration plant. He also directed that work be resumed on the long-time pet project of the Socialists, the Linnwood Avenue intake which had begun in 1912, but had been halted when funding ran out. The Public Health Service report recommended immediate construction of a modern filtration plant to prevent “morbidity and mortality from typhoid fever now caused by the polluted water supply.”  

PictureRiverside Pumping Station on Milwaukee River
Hoan’s appointment of a committee in 1917 to study the problems of filtration and a water treatment plant took two years.  During this time, completion of the Linnwood Avenue intake in 1919 started delivering cleaner water to the citizens of Milwaukee.  Mayor Hoan fought with those who did not see the need to build high priced structures to filter and treat the water, and those large customers who argued about having to pay higher prices for cleaner water such as the breweries and tanning industries.  Some opponents suggested waiting until the sewerage treatment plant was completed before deciding whether to build filtration plants, which was what the Common Council voted to do in 1922.  

'Sewer Socialists' were so called because they cared about 
the health of the citizens and providing good drinking water. 
PictureNorth Point Pumping Station, Lincoln Memorial Dr.
Finally in 1933, with the help of Milwaukee’s new city engineer, Joseph Schwada, and his campaign to educate the citizens about Milwaukee’s water and the need for filtration, that Mayor Hoan and the Socialists were able to declare victory. The Common Council under Socialist August Strehlow passed a resolution to build the filtration plant in June of 1933. Construction began on the Linnwood Avenue Water Purification Plant in 1934 and it went on-line in 1939.


PictureJones Island Sewage Treatment Plant
So it was not until June 26, 1925 when the Jones Island Sewage Treatment Plant opened that further discussions and work began to bring more modern filtration and pumping stations. But it was not to be an immediate thing. Some members of the Common Council, major industries, and some civic groups continued to fight against filtration. They argued that the new Jones Island Sewage Treatment Plant had not been in existence long enough to study its effects on Milwaukee’s water quality. The fighting raged on over the years with some pointing out that, after all, Milwaukee had won the Healthiest City award in 1929 and 1931. Others pointed out that this was because of Milwaukee’s health department, not the quality of the water. 

By Steve Daily,
Director, Chudnow Museum of Yesteryear
 


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