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Great Lakes cities work to reduce water utility emissions (UPDATE)

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Several paces around the Great Lakes are competing to reduce pollution by controlling the electricity they consume from the power grid.

Bayfield, Wisconsin, is one of five cities working to lower mercury and other emissions through the Water Utility Energy Challenge, Wisconsin Public Radio reporte . The other cities are Detroit and Ann Arbor in Michigan; North Syracuse, New York; and Highland Park, Illinois.

The cities have been testing new technology that tracks pollution and can indicate what time to pump water when lower-polluting power sources are providing electricity, said Carol Miller, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Wayne State University in Michigan.

“Every evening we provide an email update to the utility that gives them information about the next day’s emission intensity expected at the point where they’re doing most of their pumping,” Miller said. “At Bayfield, they’re pumping up groundwater and bringing that water to surface and then they store it in a reservoir. From there, they can pump it out into the community.”

The city reduced mercury emissions by 25 percent last year by pumping water only at certain times of the day, said Sarah Mather, an office assistant in Bayfield.

“Before we were just running the pumps as is, it was kind of like a free-flow. Whenever the reservoirs needed to be filled, they would get filled,” Mather said. “Now, we look at the reports in the morning and figure out the best times to pump for the day.”

The water utility pumps an average of 60,000 gallons a day, but can handle up to 250,000 gallons a day during tourist season.

The utility was also able to lower the amount of energy used to pump water last year, said Josh Pearson, the former operator of the utility.

Competition winners will be announced in June.

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