Attorney Working with Bad River Tribe Led MMSD During Sewage Dumps in Lake Michigan

By: Brian Sikma

A top environmental attorney representing the Bad River Band of Chippewa in the debate over a proposed iron ore mine helped lead the Metropolitan Milwaukee Sewerage District during a time when it pumped billions of gallons of raw sewage into Lake Michigan. Dennis Grzezinski, the senior staff attorney for Midwest Environmental Advocates, has testified against the proposed mine and has worked closely with the tribe on public relations and lobbying matters on the mine issue. For 18 years, Grzezinski was a Commissioner for the Metropolitan Milwaukee Sewerage District (MMSD), and for four years he was the chairman of the Commission.

During the four years that Grzezinski was chairman of the MMSD Commission, 1991, 1992, 2003, and 2004, the MMSD pumped 17.56 billion gallons of raw sewage into Lake Michigan, one of the two Great Lakes that border Wisconsin. Those figures come from the MMSD’s own data available on their website.

MMSD has come under strong criticism for habitually flushing billions of gallons of raw waste sewage into Lake Michigan. Various Milwaukee leaders have pledged to solve the problem, but under Grzezinski’s leadership the Commission appears to have seen some of its highest levels of sewage release.

Owen Robinson, who runs the conservative blog Boots and Sabers, quoted in a 2004 post from a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story where Grzezinski tried to defend the MMSD’s sewage dumping. After an apparent sewage dump into Lake Michigan, Grzezinski begged the public to overlook the environmental hazard.

Grzezinski pleaded for understanding of how difficult it is for MMSD “to deal with billions and billions and billions of gallons” of sewage and storm water that get into sewers. He put heavy blame on leaky suburban sewer laterals, the pipes that connect homes with sewer lines under the street.

Grzezinski has been working closely with the Bad River Band on the mine issue. Midwest Environmental Advocates is a nonprofit environmental law center where Grzezinski works. According to their website, “Midwest Environmental Advocates is part of the legal team representing the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa in their efforts to prevent an out-of-state mining company from mining iron ore in the Penokee Range.”

Numerous press releases about the mine from both the Bad River Chippewa and Midwest Environmental Advocates bear Grzezinski’s name under the logos of the respective groups. A YouTube video features Grzezinski’s testimony before a joint committee of the state legislature.

Media Trackers earlier this week exposed the fact that the Bad River Chippewa have been in flagrant and ongoing violation of EPA and Clean Water Act regulations. A wastewater treatment facility operated by the Bad River Band on their reservation has pumped excessive amounts of E. coli, phosphates, and suspended solids into the Bad River, according to EPA data and documents.

Some state lawmakers and conservative talk radio hosts have begun to criticize the hypocrisy of the Bad River Band in calling for clean water in the Bad River while pouring polluted water into that same river.

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