The Environmental Protection Agency says it is finalizing a plan to supply water to a group of residents with contaminated wells in Kewaunee County, where manure spreading by large dairy farms has been a growing source of controversy.
Officials from federal, state and county agencies met in Luxemburg with local residents Wednesday to discuss water contamination, farming practices and related issues in the wake of a task force report this summer that called for more controls over manure handling in cattle-intensive northeastern Wisconsin.
Historically, water was key to Milwaukee’s booming innovative and industrial successes. Now there’s a concerted push to position Milwaukee as a water technology hub.
Hensley Foster is part of the action. His career as an industrial engineer stretched across four decades, but he says when it ended, his creative juices were far from tapped out.
So in 2012, Foster created Stonehouse Water Technologies, and UW-Milwaukee carved out lab space within its School of Freshwater Sciences for his research.
It has since morphed into a mini water utility. “When we started out, we were looking at capturing water using cisterns and things like that and we knew once we captured it we would have to filter it….but we had this revelation that what we really needed to do was concentrate on a core module to purify,” Foster says.
A sign on the white igloo perched next to the brown, murky water of the Menomonee Canal south of downtown says: “Making the Unthinkable Drinkable.” A small hose carries the canal’s heavily polluted water inside the 8-foot-diameter dome.
A button on the outside can be pushed to dispense clear water that is clean enough to drink, said Anne Wick. She invites curious visitors — most recently Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett; Cheryl Bailey, dean of the School of Natural and Health Sciences at Mount Mary University; and Dean Amhaus, president and CEO of The Water Council — to taste the finished and fully tested product.
The grant will be used to form the Water Research Pilot Project, an initiative to advance new water technologies from the lab in Milwaukee to demonstration sites for real-world use. Through the Pilot Project, small- and medium-sized businesses will have access to the resources needed to scale up and achieve full commercialization, The Water Council said.