$29M, 8-year effort to clean up Milwaukee's waterways kicks off: 'This effort will not be easy'

MILWAUKEE -- The three major rivers that meet in Milwaukee do not have the best track record when it comes to how clean they are. But that could be changing. A big announcement was made on Tuesday, Jan. 28 to clean up our waterways.

Preston Cole

"Cities, towns, and villages, want clean water. They want the economic development -- the boardwalks, the fishing opportunities, the piers," said Preston Cole, Secretary Designee for the Wisconsin DNR.

After more than a century of aggressive development, portions of the river beds in the Milwaukee area are filled with toxic materials and other pollutants.

"Stuff that's a 'leave behind' to our manufacturing past. And what it does, without mindfulness, it limits the activities that go along this basin," Cole said.

That makes the water uninhabitable to those that call it home -- and dangerous for people who want to use it.

"This effort will not be easy," Cole said.

But on Tuesday, there was good news. There are plans to clean up the Milwaukee, Kinnickinnic and Menomonee rivers.

"So I am proud that the city is partnered in this. Our city's departments are all in. We're going to do what we can to make sure that we take that next very, very important step," said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.

The project will be completed in eight years and cost roughly $29.2 million -- paid for with tax dollars.

"It starts with engineering, soil testing, remediation, removal," Cole said.

The initial steps have already started -- and the environmental impact is expected to be immense.

"I thank you, my children thank you, and the future generations will all benefit from the work that you do," said Kurt Thiede, EPA Region Administrator.

When FOX6 News asked about the obstacles to getting this project complete, officials said there is only one -- the weather.