ASME-Landmark:Milwaukee River Flushing Station


In the late 1800s, Milwaukee found itself with a very serious problem, delicately referred to as "the river nuisance"—at the time, all of the city's sewers emptied directly into the Milwaukee River. As Milwaukee's population grew, the natural flow of the river proved not strong enough to keep it clean, and the result was a stagnant, foul-smelling waterway.

City officials decided that the quickest and most practical solution would be to somehow flush the river with fresh water on a daily basis. This engineering feat was accomplished in 1888, with the pioneering design of the Milwaukee River Flushing Station, one of the earliest water-pollution control systems.

Edwin Reynolds (1831-1909) designed a screw pump for the Milwaukee River Flushing Station that successfully poured more than 500 million gallons of water every 24 hours from Lake Michigan into the Milwaukee River by means of an underground tunnel. The water pump was built by the Edward P. Allis company and, at the time of its installation, was the largest in the world.

The pump is still used during the summer, more than 100 years following its initial operation. This maintains a current in the lower portion of the river and greatly reduces the concentration of pollutants. The original steam engine and boiler plant were removed in 1908, at which time the pump was repowered by an electric motor. The pump house is located on the lake front. See ASME website for more information