Wisconsin, Home Of The "Sewer Socialists," Redefining Future Of Environmental Regulation?


"UV lamp from Radium, a Siemens company, treats 20 liters of water in about 15 minutes. Its powerful UV radiation destroys all pathogenic bacteria in the process." Caption & image credit: Siemens.

Looking over comments on my recent post, Are Wisconsin Voters Willing To Take Their Chances At The Tap?, it dawned on me that the topic, proposed legislation to forbid a State agency from taking steps to protect public health, meant that my home State may have come full circle, and is headed to an 1880's style of governance. Other US states will be watching...more than the future of organized labor is at stake.A history rich with environmental villains and heroes.
Between the Civil War and WWI, Wisconsin's northern forests were clear-cut and much of the slash-covered land thereafter burned and was badly eroded - left worthless by the Timber Barons. The forests eventually returned, however, and tourism is now a major industry: supported by state and Federally managed forests and the stewardship of millions of acres of clean water.

Wisconsin was where John Muir spent his youth.

It was the source of inspiration for Aldo Leopold's environmental classic Sand County Almanac.

And, Wisconsin is the home of former US Senator Gaylord Nelson, who conceived the first Earth Day (among other very important things).

Remarkable politics.
Ripon WI is where the Republican Party began.

Per this Wikipedia entry, Wisconsin was also

home of the Progressive Party of 1924 ...a new party created as a vehicle for Robert M. La Follette, Sr. to run for president in the 1924 election. It did not run candidates for other offices, and it disappeared after the election except in Wisconsin. Its name resembles the 1912 Progressive Party, which LaFollette opposed and which was defunct by 1919. The 1924 party was composed of LaFollette supporters, who were distinguished from the earlier Roosevelt supporters by being generally more agrarian, populist, and Midwestern in perspective, as opposed to urban, elitist, and eastern. The 1924 party carried only Wisconsin, but carried many counties in the Midwest and West with large German American elements or strong labor union movements.

Dig on this.
Governance of Milwaukee, Wisconsin's largest city, was dominated by Democratic Socialists during the period 1892 to 1960 - an era culminating in strong economic growth and a prosperous working class ready for migration to the suburbs . (How would Glenn Beck explain that correlation?)


Debs campaign poster from 1912. Image credit:Wikipedia
Sewer Socialism
The once politically-dominant Milwaukee County socialists were known as Sewer Socialists, a pejorative succinctly explained by these excerpts from Wikipedia:

Sewer Socialism was a term, originally more or less pejorative, for the American socialist movement that centered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and existed from around 1892 to 1960. The term purportedly was coined by Morris Hillquit at the 1932 Milwaukee convention of the Socialist Party of America, as an ironic commentary on the Milwaukee socialists and their perpetual boasting about the excellent public sewer system in the city....The Sewer Socialists fought to clean up what they saw as "the dirty and polluted legacy of the Industrial Revolution," cleaning up neighborhoods and factories with new sanitation systems, city-owned water and power systems, and improved education. The movement has its origins in the organization of the Social Democratic Party, a precursor to the Socialist Party of America.
Now, faced with 'industrial de-volution' and worsening joblessness, Wisconsin's current legislative vision seems focused on creating a Gilded Age sequel.

There are more examples of back-stepping changes; but, I think I have made my point and will end here.

Footnotes: Ironically, the State's new Republican Governor, Scott Walker, is former Milwaukee County Executive (2002-2010). Separately, Egyptians are sending pizzas to WI protesters.

I forgot to mention significance of the photo used in this post (above). Everybody is so used to chlorine and chlor-amine as water disinfectants - after all that's all US water plants have used since I don't know, WWII? - that they forget the more flexible alternative of UV light disinfection.

Ozone is another possibility.

Point is, if you assume that the old design is the only design available and call your standard engineering firm for a tentative cost estimate they are going to trot out the stuff they already have on the shelf.

Ozone and UV water treatment require no delivery or storage of hazardous materials. These technologies run off electricity. Turn them on when there is evidence of water contamination. Otherwise, no operating costs

Tags: Wisconsin