Heavy rainfall in August meant millions of gallons of untreated storm and wastewater were going into the lake. Now, with autumn in full swing, more damage could be on the way for the rivers and lake.
"There's actually phosphorous that's in the leaves that fall from the trees," Kristin Schoenecker, Respect Our Waters said. "If that goes in the streets, the water can leach the phosphorous out and that can go in the waterway and lead to algal blooms that decrease the amount of oxygen in the water and also are really detrimental to the health of fish and other wildlife."
Schoenecker says Respect Our Waters started an adopt a storm drain project to help keep the fresh water clean. People like Joe Hrdina heard the call and stepped up.
"It was really by chance," Hrdina said. "I've always been environmentally conscious, picking up trash around the neighborhood when I see it. I happened upon this adopt a storm drain campaign."
Hrdina actually adopted two storm drains near his home. He says he spent about five minutes cleaning them up.
"I used like four grocery store bags and dumped them in compost," Hrdina said. "The street sweepers don't do enough. They come once a month in our area. So it's really up to us to do our part and help out a little bit."
The effort by him and others who have adopted the storm drains could have big impacts.
"As we continue to expand and grow in Greater Milwaukee and the watershed as a whole, we need to be conscious of what we're doing to affect the water quality," Schoenecker said. "We've been on the right path recently. Becoming more conscious of clearing storm drains and other initiatives like that. Just continuing to be conscious and following up with these programs."
"As a natural resource, it's not something that's ours," Hrdina said. "It's something to be taken care of. Everyone who lives here should enjoy it and take care of it."
If you're interested in adopting a storm drain in your area, you can visit the Respect Our Waters website here.