Water Quality

Linnwood Water Treatment Plant Laboratory

Protecting Public Health

Milwaukee’s recognition as a national leader in water quality is based on its vigilant water quality monitoring program and pure, safe drinking water.

The Milwaukee Water Works (MWW) is recognized as a national leader in providing safe, high-quality drinking water that meets all regulations, and water quality monitoring, or testing, that goes above and beyond requirements. Crystal-clear Milwaukee water is provided fresh and pure 24 hours each day. We treat Lake Michigan water with ozone disinfection, biologically active filtration, and chloramine disinfection. Since 1993, the Milwaukee Water Works has invested $417 million in its infrastructure, as reported to the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC), to ensure a reliable supply of pure, safe drinking water. A public utility belongs to all of us. Revenue is reinvested in utility infrastructure.

While contributing to a high quality of life, the Milwaukee Water Works provides an abundant, reliable supply of water at a low price and high value to water-intensive and water technology business, industry, and research.

Water quality and operations are regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. Rates are regulated by the PSC.

The Milwaukee Water Works' water quality monitoring and screening activities include organisms and contaminants that are not yet regulated but considered of emerging concern, or micro-pollutants. The utility tests source and treated drinking water for over 500 contaminants while the EPA requires tests for 91. The monitoring is conducted as a precaution to ensure safe water, to collect baseline data for study, and to meet future regulations. The expense of testing for unregulated compounds provides customers with added assurance and confidence in Milwaukee water quality and service.

Milwaukee’s recognition as a national leader in water quality is based on its vigilant water quality monitoring program:
•    The Milwaukee Water Works was one of the first utilities in the U.S. to begin testing source and treated drinking water for endocrine-disrupting compounds (EDCs) (2004) and for pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) (2005). Neither testing nor disclosure of these results from voluntary testing is required under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

•    Milwaukee was cited as one of only 28 major utilities in the U.S. to test source and treated water for emerging contaminants such as EDCs and PPCPs (Associated Press, 2008).

•    The Milwaukee Water Works was the first U.S. utility to post the test results for emerging contaminants on the Internet. The Milwaukee Water Works makes the information readily available to demonstrate a commitment to water quality and transparency in its information.

•     Milwaukee's water quality monitoring system was in full compliance five years ahead of time with EPA regulations to control disinfection byproducts, the result of rigorous water quality monitoring and investment in water treatment and distribution systems.

•    The Milwaukee Water Works began monitoring for chromium-6 (cr-6) in January 2011 as federal regulators and the drinking water industry research how much, if any, cr-6, or hexavalent chromium, might pose a health risk in drinking water. There are no requirements to test for cr-6 in drinking water. Scroll down for monitoring results and more information.

It is impractical for utilities to test for the thousands of substances in the environment, many of which occur naturally, that are now being detected by new scientific methods at extremely low levels in drinking water. Science has not demonstrated any impact on human health at the trace levels these compounds are being discovered.  Therefore, the Milwaukee Water Works continues to support drinking water research by the EPA, the Water Research Foundation (WRF), and other agencies. The Milwaukee Water Works is a member of the American Water Works Association, the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies, the WRF, and the Wisconsin Water Association.

The collaboration of MWW with the Milwaukee Health Department led to the formation of the Interagency Clean Water Advisory Council (IACWAC). The IACWAC was recognized by the EPA for its work to promote sharing of technical information about water quality and public health-related science, public health surveillance, and situational awareness, analysis, and response. IACWAC tracks and can respond to public health issues that may be related to water. Groundbreaking in the 1990s, the ongoing partnership is now recognized nationally for its effectiveness in protecting public health. 

Chromium-6 -- The Milwaukee Water Works conducts quarterly monitoring and reporting for Cr-6 as federal regulators and the drinking water industry research how much, if any, Cr-6 (also referred to as hexavalent chromium) might pose a health risk in drinking water. Cr-6 is a naturally occurring contaminant and an industrial chemical that has been linked to cancer. The City of Milwaukee Health Department (MHD) in 2011 determined there remains no evidence of an imminent public health risk or threat of acute illness based on MWW monitoring results.

Cr-6 is included in the EPA Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule-3 (UCMR-3) mandatory monitoring which requires quarterly monitoring of water treatment plant finished water and water in the distribution system from one site per each of the two treatment plants. Total Chromium is regulated by the EPA via the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) while Cr-6 is not regulated. The EPA is reviewing a proposal to set a safe level, known as a Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL), for Cr-6, and is assessing health effects based on available data. EPA has not yet provided any risk context for the sampling or any operational guidance if Cr-6 was detected. MWW began monitoring for Cr-6 after a January 2011 EPA guidance in which utilities were encouraged to conduct Cr-6 sampling at treatment plants (source and finished) and in the distribution system on a quarterly basis. MWW is prepared to respond, as it did by immediately ordering tests for chromium-6, to protect public health and meet federal and state water quality standards.

Fluoride -- Fluoride, in low levels in drinking water, is proven to help prevent tooth decay. Milwaukee began adding fluoride to its water in 1953 when the Common Council enacted an ordinance directing its use. The American Dental Association (ADA) endorsed fluoridation in 1950 and reaffirmed its endorsement in 1997. The American Medical Association also endorsed fluoridation and reaffirmed its use, in 1951 and 1996, respectively. The U.S. Public Health Service has also endorsed fluoridation. (Source: American Water Works Association)

The Milwaukee Water Works adds fluoride to the treated drinking water. Milwaukee tap water is fluoridated at a level that does not exceed 0.7 mg/L of fluoride. this level conforms with regulations. Find additional information on the web sites of the Centers for Disease Control www.cdc.gov/fluoridation, Health and Human Services www.hhs.gov and the Milwaukee Health Department http://city.milwaukee.gov/Health.
Notice to Parents of Infants Six Months of Age or Younger (Print a copy of the notice in English/en español)
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the proper amount of fluoride from infancy throughout life at all ages helps prevent and control tooth decay (cavities). Therefore, the Milwaukee Water Works, following public health recommendations, maintains a level of fluoride in the drinking water that is both safe and effective.

Per Common Council File No. 120187 adopted on July 24, 2012, the utility is required to post the following advisory regarding fluoride and young infants: 
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a child’s life, followed by continued breastfeeding as complementary foods are introduced, for optimal short- and long-term health advantages. Go to >http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/129/3/e827.full> for more information. As of Aug. 31, 2012, Milwaukee water is fluoridated at a level not to exceed 0.7 mg/L. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), for infants up to six months of age, if tap water is fluoridated or has substantial natural fluoride (0.7 mg/L or higher) and is being used to dilute infant formula, a parent may consider using a low-fluoride alternative water source. Bottled water known to be low in fluoride is labeled as purified, deionized, demineralized, distilled, or prepared by reverse osmosis. Ready-to-feed (no-mix) infant formula typically has little fluoride and may be preferable at least some of the time. If breastfeeding is not possible, parents should consult a pediatrician about an appropriate infant formula option. Parents should be aware that there may be an increased chance of mild dental fluorosis if the child is exclusively consuming infant formula reconstituted with fluoridated water. Dental fluorosis is a term that covers a range of visible changes to the enamel surface of the tooth. Go to http://www.cdc.gov/fluoridation/safety/infant_formula.htm> for more information on dental fluorosis and the use of fluoridated drinking water in infant formula.

Aviso para los padres de niños pequeños y de hasta seis meses de edad
De acuerdo a los Centros para el Control y la Prevención de Enfermedades (CDC, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), la cantidad adecuada de fluoruro desde la infancia y en todas las etapas posteriores de la vida ayuda a prevenir y controlar las caries dentales. Por esta razón, el Departamento de Agua de Milwaukee adopta las recomendaciones sobre salud pública y, en consecuencia, mantiene en el agua potable un nivel de fluoruro sano y eficaz. En cumplimiento de lo dispuesto por el registro del Consejo Municipal (Common Council) número 120187, adoptado el 24 de julio del 2012, estamos obligados a publicar la siguiente notificación acerca del fluoruro y los niños pequeños:

“La Academia Estadounidense de Pediatría (American Academy of Pediatrics) recomienda la leche materna como único alimento en los primeros seis meses de vida. Y, a partir de entonces, la continuación de la lactancia mientras se incorporan alimentos complementarios a la dieta, para fomentar el buen estado de salud a corto y largo plazo. Para más información, visite <http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/129/3/e827.full>. Desde el 31 de agusto del 2012 , el agua de la Ciudad de Milwaukee se suministra con un nivel de fluoruro de 0.7 mg/L. Según datos de los CDC, si el agua es fluorada o naturalmente tiene un nivel considerable de fluoruro (0.7 mg/L o más), se recomienda que los niños pequeños de hasta seis meses de edad consuman una fuente de agua alternativa con poco fluoruro si los padres utilizan agua de la llave para mezclar o diluir fórmula alimenticia para el pequeño. El agua en botella con baja concentración de fluoruro contiene en la etiqueta las palabras: purificada, desionizada, desmineralizada, destilada o preparada por ósmosis inversa (purified / deionized / demineralized / distilled / reverse osmosis). La fórmula lista para consumir (ready to feed) suele tener poco fluoruro y puede ser una opción en algunas ocasiones. Si no es posible amamantar, los padres deben preguntarle al pediatra cuál es la mejor opción de fórmula. Los padres deben tener presente que los bebés que se alimentan exclusivamente con fórmula preparada con agua fluorada pueden tener una mayor probabilidad de sufrir una leve fluorosis dental. El término “fluorosis dental” abarca una variedad de cambios en la superficie del esmalte de los dientes. Visite <http://www.cdc.gov/fluoridation/safety/infant_formula.htm> para más información sobre fluorosis dental y el uso de agua potable fluorada en la fórmula para lactantes.”

Consumer Confidence Report 

Public water systems are required by the EPA to provide an annual Consumer Confidence Report (2013) (en español) to customers. The report is intended to improve public health protection by providing educational material to allow consumers to make educated decisions regarding any potential health risks pertaining to the quality, treatment, and management of their drinking water supply. Milwaukee's report is mailed to customers with their second quarter bills, during April, May, and June.