While sewage dumping after heavy storms contributes to beach pollution, storm sewers draining directly on the beach explains elevated bacteria levels after light rains, said Sandra McLellan, a water quality expert with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's Great Lakes Water Institute.
"The storm sewer outfalls are the primary cause for the pollution we're seeing at Bradford Beach," said McLellan, who is conducting a federally funded study of the beach.
The storm sewers run from the bluffs across Lincoln Memorial Drive and end at the beach. Although officials are working on a solution, beach lovers shouldn't expect one by summer.
Storm sewers were supposed to solve pollution problems, not cause them.
The first sewers in Milwaukee - and much of the rest of the country - were designed to carry both rainwater and sewage.
"What we're seeing at Bradford Beach is typical of what we see in waterways throughout the area," said McLellan, who said her data on Bradford Beach will be published in a research paper in spring. "The E. coli in all the rivers goes through the roof every time it rains."