Hat tip to Healthy Rivers, my favorite site to follow dirty statistics, offers a new public health tracking program locally to shed light on a problem that has been mostly ignored to date.
I had a close friend here in Milwaukee who got really sick this summer from swimming in the lake while sailing after a dry weather overflow. She had no idea an overflow event had even occurred. This is pretty commonplace, and unfortunately, it’s really difficult to correlate sewage overflows with illnesses contracted by recreational use, because so few people seek medical attention or make the connection that the water made them sick. There’s a huge need to study that connection, but the records pretty much don’t exist.
That’s why the study we [Friends of Milwaukee’s Rivers and the Emergency Department, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Wisconsin] focused on the drinking water connection, which freaked everyone out. It is highly likely that many of the kids in our study could have gotten sick from recreational use as well. We weren’t able to isolate their exposure, but the hospital is now using questionnaires so we can try to get at that question in the future.
Pediatrics, a peer reviewed medical journal, recently published an article on our study of increased visits to a pediatric emergency room for gastrointestinal illnesses after releases of partially treated, or “blended” sewage, here in Milwaukee.
Here’s the abstract of the report as it appeared in the journal Pediatrics.