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WUWM’s Chuck Quirmbach reports on innovation in southeastern Wisconsin.

Baldwin Says Cleaner Water May Come Through More Help For Water Tech Firms

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Chuck Quirmbach
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Douglas Hwang, of Waukesha-based CORNCOB Inc., explains a wastewater treatment product to Sen. Tammy Baldwin.

Wisconsin U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin says she'll try to provide additional help in Congress for water technology firms.

Language sponsored by Baldwin that provides incentives for innovative drinking water technology was included in a federal water resources bill Congress passed last year. Baldwin says the drinking water crisis in Flint, Michigan may have helped.

But incentives for emerging wastewater and stormwater treatment tech were left out. Baldwin says she hasn't given up trying to convince Congress to add those, because incomplete treatment of sewage and contaminated runoff can affect drinking water too.

"They ultimately flow back into our Great Lakes, into our inland rivers and lakes and so, we're going to keep surging ahead on that," she says.

Baldwin says the best chance to add the wastewater and stormwater language could come in a major infrastructure bill Congress will potentially consider in the coming months.

The Senator says she may also look into some other changes too. She met Monday with several water tech manufacturers at the Water Council building on Milwaukee's near south side to hear their recommendations.

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Credit Chuck Quirmbach
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Sen. Baldwin meets with water tech leaders at the Water Council, including Marc Roehl of Evoqua Co. (far right)

Marc Roehl, of the Waukesha office of Evoqua Water Technologies, says it would a good idea to help more local communities pay for higher-tech wastewater systems.

"For example, Evoqua's very involved in Wisconsin with a very advanced phosphorus removal technology, a process called CoMag. We've done piloting in Fond du Lac, Waukesha, Madison. Demonstrations work well, but it's for meeting very tight effluent limits. Economical from a certain sense, but for smaller communities, it's an expensive technology. So, funding, allowing smaller communities to step up and meet those requirements would be great," he tells WUWM.

Other panel members urged Baldwin to look into regulatory issues that companies say delay — by years — new water treatment technology from getting to market.  Baldwin says she'll try to find out what's going on.

"First, as a policy maker, I need to understand whether the delays are because that's really how long it takes, or whether the delays are under-resourced in an area so key to public health and human safety," she says.

Baldwin says whether Congress is talking about adding staff to agencies like the EPA or more water tech incentives in an infrastructure bill, the question is where to find the money.

Support is provided by Dr. Lawrence and Mrs. Hannah Goodman for Innovation reporting.

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