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Decades of dredging and docking had put the current to sleep, allowing the filth in our waterways to simply sit there until a heavy rain or the municipal flushing pumps pushed it out into Lake Michigan. In the Fox River and lower Green Bay AOC, the cleanup has been ongoing since the late 1980s. An extensive Riverwalk featuring art displays, boat launches and restaurants lines its banks in do… The Milwaukee River Flushing Station is indicative of MMSD’s historic commitment to tackling difficult engineering problems in order to curb pollution and preserve Milwaukee’s quality of life. An Historical Overview of the Milwaukee River Basin. Consider adopting a section of the Milwaukee, Menomonee and Kinnickinnic Rivers to help keep them clean. Milwaukee River Flushing Station Company: E.P. 1 (Autumn 1994): 2-23. Hatton, T. Chalkley. Milwaukee River – Downtown Date Paddled: August 18th, 2018 Put ... but for the most part these are super easy to avoid and all boats on the river are limited to no-wake speed. When Milwaukee became a city in 1846, wild rice beds still flourished at the mouths of the Kinnickinnic, Menomonee and Milwaukee Rivers. An 1881 visitor described the Milwaukee River as “a currentless and yellowish murky stream, with water like oil, and an odor combined of the effluvia of a hundred sewers.”. 1967 Press Photo Image of pollution in Milwaukee Wisconsin. Milwaukee Sewer History The City of Milwaukee began construction of a public sewer system more than 130 years ago to carry wastewater to the surrounding rivers and to Lake Michigan. In the long run, however, the greater menace was the steady stream of contaminants from local industries. PHOTO FRONT PHOTO BACK. [26] The number of superfund sites in the area, as well as the number of brownfield remediation sites that need to be cleaned up before the land can be developed, also show that, while the area has made great strides in fighting pollution, the legacy of industrial abuse of the land, water, and air in the Milwaukee area is far from over. MILWAUKEE RIVER FLUSHING PUMP. Later on two men known as Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet came to the Fox River to establish important routes between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River for trading purposes. Excitement is building as the project moves forward. During the second half of the 20th century Milwaukee turned its back on a valuable economic resource, the three rivers that run through the heart of the City. Federally supported remediation projects have been going on under our noses for decades, in the Milwaukee River, the Little Menomonee, the Kinnickinnic, the Menomonee Valley, Cedar Creek, and Lincoln Creek. In some cases, ground was literally being made entirely from pollutants and garbage. With no practical alternatives, few regulations, and a near-total lack of respect for the resources they found here, our ancestors turned the city’s rivers into open sewers. Nowhere on the Great Lakes has such a massive cleanup been attempted under a single agreement involving so many players on such a short timetable. The Kinnickinnic River is one of three primary rivers that flows into the harbor of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, at Lake Michigan, along with the Menomonee River and Milwaukee River. For generations Milwaukee’s machine shops, tanneries, breweries, and manufactured gas plants simply dumped their waste products—oil and grease, coal tar, hide scrapings, heavy metals, PCBs, PHAs—into the nearest stream. massive cleanup of Milwaukee’s waterways. There, as in Milwaukee, sediment contaminated by industry had to be dredged. And steadfast, demonstrated public support from throughout the region. [8], The city’s tanneries, located primarily on the Milwaukee and Menomonee rivers, needed the rivers as a source of water and as a shipping line for their finished products, but also used them as a means of disposal for the chemical mixture used in the tanning process. | Privacy Policy | Cookie Policy | Site Map. A continued spirit of collaboration. Pollution, from agricultural, municipal and industrial sources, led to a host of problems exacerbated by a series of dams and other habitat alterations, and the river was in bad shape. It might be more accurate to say that the project would unmake history. As Milwaukee grew as a harbor, manufacturing center, and residential hub, pollution increased. The Sewerage Commission of the city of Milwaukee was established in 1913 to modernize the sewage treatment process, but it was not until 1926 that the treatment facility they designed went into service. For example, as rainwater flows across lawns, farms, streets, parking lots, and other surfaces, it carries salt, pesticides, fertilizer… Kinnickinnic is an Ojibwe word which literally means "what is mixed", referring to the mixing of indigenous plants and tobaccos. It was capable of pumping more than a half billion gallons of water a day, the highest-capacity pump in the world when installed. Yet this did little to ameliorate the problem on the rivers, as pollution was also coming from the various heavy industries that now dominated most of the city’s riverfront. During this time, most citizens got their drinking water via wells and used outhouses with privy vaults to dispose of wastewater. Although the lake is able to handle some sewage without serious affects, the amount of untreated sewage dumped into the lake in the late 1800s and into the 1900s resulted in dangerously contaminated water. 1888. In Green Bay, much of the pollution consisted of PCBs from upstream paper mills making carbonless copy paper and recycled paper products. The French were the first European settlers to arrive, among them was the explorer Jean Nicolet. There was a dire need for a central water source. Article history: Received 30 June 2014 Accepted 30 September 2014 commu Keywords: Environmental remediation Milwaukee River (GLLA) project. Available data for this site . In somewhat plainer English, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative supports Remedial Action Plans to remove Beneficial Use Impairments in Areas of Concern. The highest concentration detected in 2017 was 130 parts per billion, which is a whopping 8.6 times higher that the Federal Action Level of 15 parts per billion. It was capable of pumping more than a half billion gallons of water a day, the highest-capacity pump in the world when installed. It is an area that has experienced environmental degradation. Since 1987 the Milwaukee estuary—our harbor and the rivers that feed it—has been a federally designated Area of Concern, one of 43 hot spots on the Great Lakes. This design was insufficient for numerous reasons: the population of the area was too great, the waters smelled horrible, and there were fears of disease and contaminated drinking water. Cleaning up the AOC would give us a history-making fresh start.”. From the seemingly untouched areas within the Northern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest to the areas near cities challenged by pollution and habitat modification, one thing remains constant: our land and water resources are forever linked. During the second half of the 20th century Milwaukee turned its back on a valuable economic resource, the three rivers that run through the heart of the City. There, as in Milwaukee, sediment contaminated by industry had to be dredged. The rivers, lakes, groundwater and lands in the Milwaukee River basin sustain a wide range of plant and animal life. A special commission appointed by the city recommended that a system be developed to thoroughly treat sewage and a filtration method for all lake water drawn into the city water works. Geib, Paul. [citation needed]Kinnickinnic is an Ojibwe word which literally means "what is mixed", referring to the mixing of indigenous plants and tobaccos. By the early 1900s, bacteria from Milwaukee's polluted harbor began to reach the water intake. The Milwaukee River Today For a while, the health of the Milwaukee River was in serious decline. Milwaukee: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, 1989. The Milwaukee Stockyards opened in the Menomonee Valley in 1869 and were soon processing thousands of animals every day. COVID-19 has slowed that pulse dramatically, but the announcement was still a historic win for Milwaukee. The cleanup would cost somewhere north of $200 million, 65 percent provided by U.S. taxpayers and the rest from local sources. HISTORY >> Jones Island History Report ... Wild rice, however, is sensitive to water pollution. The EPA has agreed to fund 65 percent of the preliminary work, which is projected to cost $29.3 million, and efforts are underway to raise the local match. Human and animal waste dissipated over time, but industrial pollutants became the gift that kept on giving. Non-Point Pollution does not originate from one specific location, and it often discharges over a wide area of land. The prize is federal funding for a massive cleanup of Milwaukee’s waterways. The water in Milwaukee’s rivers is noticeably cleaner today than it was a generation ago, thanks in no small part to the Deep Tunnel system that opened in 1993. But bit by bit, that is changing. This section of the Milwaukee River is an Area of Concern under the Great Lakes Legacy Act and there has been and continues to be restoration work to clean up past industrial pollution in the river. This pump, designed by Edwin Reynolds (1831-1909) and built by the Edward P. Allis company, is the major component of one of the earliest water-pollution control systems. [22] Ozaukee and Washington counties each have one superfund site and Waukesha County is home to four, each of which are former landfill sites that now have dangerous levels of ground and surface water pollution.[23]. Buoyed by tougher environmental regulations and $5 billion in improvements, the Milwaukee River is cleaner and more valuable economically and ecologically than at any point in … USGS 04087000 MILWAUKEE RIVER AT MILWAUKEE, WI. Erected 1992 by The American Society of Mechanical Engineers ("ASME") Milwaukee, Milwaukee County, Wisconsin. Once the center of commerce and recreation, the Milwaukee River had become one of the City's most neglected amenities. The tall figures of Milwaukee’s past may have been hard workers and visionary thinkers, but collectively they were an environmental disaster. The res Community perceptions ABSTRACT The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and Milwaukee County Parks Department have been working on an environmental remediation project that … [10], The huge amount of coal being consumed by factories and steam-powered trains and ships also put immense amounts of impurities in the air. River History The Milwaukee River through the years. Milwaukee, in turn, has assembled a united front of agencies—city, county, state, and nonprofit—to coordinate the cleanup. A similar pump was later installed on the Kinnickinnic River. By 1878, when Milwaukee’s population had surged past the 100,000 mark, the community had nearly 75 miles of sewer pipe under its streets. Although water quality in the river is higher than it has been in a century, contamination from road salt wash-off has been increasing, as are nitrites from fertilizer and leaking septic systems. In the last three years since 2017, however, Milwaukee has experienced year over year increases in both PM2.5 and ozone. For all the good they’ve done, none of these projects has attracted much attention. History. The world’s largest pump (a coffee shop took over the flushing station built over the pump in the early twenty-first century) drew water from Lake Michigan and forced it through underground pipes to a point on the Milwaukee River just north of downtown. “I’ve been calling our region the Fresh Coast for years,” said Mayor Tom Barrett, “and to live up to that name, we need to maximize recreation and wildlife along our waterways. [2] The city began work on a sewage system in 1869, but this only diverted raw sewage into the city’s rivers. Lead enters Milwaukee's tap water through old lead service pipes and lead-containing plumbing. While the early days of European settlement in the area did little in the way of directly fouling the local waters, the transformation of the land from swamp to dry ground primed the rivers and lake for future pollution problems by removing many of the natural defenses against such contamination. #166 Milwaukee River Flushing Station 1888 One of the earliest water-pollution control systems, reducing the concentration of pollutants in an urban stream This pump, designed by Edwin Reynolds (1831-1909) and built by the Edward P. Allis company, is the major component of one of the earliest water-pollution control systems. The City of Milwaukee had been incorporated 25 years and there were well over 100,000 residents before plans were in place for a municipal water system. Encyclopedia of Milwaukee reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. It's defined in the United States-Canada Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement as "a geographic area designated by the Parties where significant impairment of beneficial uses has occurred as a result of human activities at the local level." [1], In the decades after the Civil War, the continued growth of Milwaukee’s population was devastating to the city’s water quality. Just as clean water and environmental protection were vital issues in 1888, they remain a driving force behind the The result was a series of outbreaks of “intestinal flu” and other ailments from people drinking contaminated lake water. Lake Michigan has had a long history of pollution, including a recent lawsuit involving Chromium 6 releases from an abutting steel facility. Pollution—of the water, air, and land—is an unfortunate but constant feature of Milwaukee’s history. MILWAUKEE COUNTY LANDMARKS City of Milwaukee Milwaukee County Courthouse 901 North 9th Street Milwaukee Landmark Designation: 1976 Milwaukee County’s first two courthouses were located east of the Milwaukee River in today’s Cathedral Square. Milwaukee Sewer History. While these pollution gains have been subtle, it is concerning trend. Today, interest in the Milwaukee River is enjoying a renaissance of sorts, and various groups have joined forces over the past several decades to clean up this waterway. “Milwaukee Sewage Disposal Problem.” Proceedings of the Eighteenth Annual Convention of the League of American Municipalities (1915): 33-45. Please use the Site Contact Form. [15], In 1909, the state finally forced the city to take its first steps toward solving water contamination. A Brief History of the Milwaukee Water Works. What will it take to keep the momentum building? All Rights Reserved. You should be fine to kayak here, but swimming is not advised. The choice of a west side location on North Ninth Street for a third courthouse was a controversial one, but the land was acquired and the … Have a suggestion for a new topic? The system’s sole function was to carry human, animal, and industrial waste, mixed with stormwater, to the nearest river; treatment was not the remotest option. Household sewage and horse manure were the worst of it, at least in the short term. River History The Milwaukee River through the years. © 2016 Encyclopedia of Milwaukee, unless otherwise indicated. What’s proposed is nothing less than removing all the polluted muck from the city’s streambeds and allowing them to flow over clean bottoms for the first time in at least 150 years. [5], Perhaps the most revolting industrial runoff into the rivers was from the city’s numerous tanneries and stockyards. Let’s hope we get the chance. Milwaukee Sewer History The Clean Water Act defines “pollution” as the “man-made or man-induced alteration of the chemical, physical, biological, or radiological integrity of water.” More general pollution includes any alteration in the character or quality of the environment, or any of its components, that renders it harmful or less suited for certain uses. An 1881 visitor described the Milwaukee River as “a currentless and yellowish murky stream, with water like oil, and an odor combined of the effluvia of a hundred sewers.” Household sewage and horse manure were the worst of it, at least in the short term. This run-off, while it was treated with lime water and antiseptic bark juice, further contributed to river pollution. Using its activated charcoal filtration system, known as Actiflo Carb, the company tested for the removal of chemicals including mood stabilizing drugs, disinfectants, antibiotics and blood pressure medications. Point Pollution comes from an identifiable source such as an industrial discharge pipe, an underground storage tank, sewage treatment plants or even agricultural feedlots and manure storage areas. The main reason for the drop: Near-record rainfall of 45.08 inches in Milwaukee in 2018 that washed big slugs of contaminants into waterways. This pump, designed by Edwin Reynolds (1831-1909) and built by the Edward P. Allis company, is the major component of one of the earliest water-pollution control systems. Through the 1960s, heating and electrical generation from coal burning had decreased, as had the number of steam-powered trains passing through the city. The world’s largest pump (a coffee shop took over the flushing station built over the pump in the early twenty-first century) drew water from Lake Michigan and forced it through underground pipes to a point on the Milwaukee River just north of downtown. However, the growth in Milwaukee’s population also contributed to the problem, particularly in terms of contamination from sewage and wastewater. PROVISIONAL DATA SUBJECT TO REVISION . “Practices of Industrial Waste Disposition at Milwaukee.” Sewage Works Journal 4, no 4. History. Trying to understand the ongoing cleanup effort can be an Adventure in Acronymland. From the seemingly untouched areas within the Northern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest to the areas near cities challenged by pollution and habitat modification, one thing remains constant: our land and water resources are forever linked. In the Fox River and lower Green Bay AOC, the cleanup has been ongoing since the late 1980s. “Free dumps” were used in the Menomonee Valley to fill marshy land, encouraging the contribution of rotten food, animal entrails, and all matters of filth and trash by residents. Heisig, H.M., and James Brower. It is true that overall, Milwaukee’s air quality has made huge strides. Since the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970—and passage of the Clean Water Act two years later—the federal government has played a leading role in America’s cleanup efforts, including several in Milwaukee. This “fill” would then be covered with dirt and treated as natural ground. milwaukee river flushing pump 1888 This pump, designed by Edwin Reynolds (1831-1909) and built by the Edward P. Allis Company, is the major component of one of the earliest water-pollution … Stable funding for the EPA’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. ©2021 MMSD. USGS 04087000 MILWAUKEE RIVER AT MILWAUKEE, WI. The disposal facility, engineered to keep 1.7 million cubic yards of waste where it belongs, would create another 46 acres, giving the Port of Milwaukee new docking space and the public another park. The Milwaukee River attracts more enthusiasts today than it has in decades as an ever-increasing number of people live, work and play along the state’s most urban river system. Although the river is far from pristine, it is good to see that the river is now clean enough to have a part in the revitalization of downtown Milwaukee. Before the completion of the city trash incineration plant in 1902 (which would have still contributed to air pollution), much of the city’s trash was either burned, buried, or dumped into the lake. Recipient of pollution from the entire basin. You may want to avoid the river during discharges. While the worst of Milwaukee’s pollution problems seem to be in the past, the city still feels the effects of contamination of the water, air, and land from earlier generations. "Where this guy was swimming is part of the Milwaukee AOC (Area of Concern), which has been a sink bed for pollution coming from upstream portions of Menomonee and Milwaukee … As Milwaukee grew as a harbor, manufacturing center, and residential hub, pollution increased. Even though the AOC project has generated significant momentum, there’s no guarantee that we’ll be able to turn these ambitious plans into freshwater realities. These plumes of fresh lake water helped to flush stagnant pollution from the rivers but also caused most of the filth to end up in Lake Michigan, the source of Milwaukee’s drinking water. The Fox River had supported a large number of Native Americans before the European settlers arrived in the area. (July 1932): 680-685. The 1967 Clean Air Act forced the city to begin addressing ground-level ozone air pollution as well as large-particle solid pollutants. Construction and CAD Standard Documents and Special Bid Attachments. New condos now crowd the downtown and harbor districts of Milwaukeeattracting young professionals to the area. Water Works officials installed a system of mixing calcium hypochlorite, or bleaching powder, into the water before pumping it into the distribution pipes. According to historian John Gurda, coal-burning had by the 1880s created a “permanent pall of smoke” over the city’s freight yards and factory districts. The Milwaukee River area was populated by Native Americans in the time before European settlement. Milwaukee Sewer History The City of Milwaukee began construction of a public sewer system more than 130 years ago to carry wastewater to the surrounding rivers and to Lake Michigan. Here the river has a frenetic energy to it and was bustling with kayakers, powerboats, and huge tour boats. The Fox River is a waterway located in the Eastern and Central parts of Wisconsin and spans about 38 miles and connects Lake Winnebago with Green Bay. [6] Blood, viscera, and manure ran off into the Menomonee River in startling quantities, turning the water into a stinking, “sluggish” mass. This pump, designed by Edwin Reynolds (1831-1909) and built by the Edward P. Allis company, is the major component of one of the earliest water-pollution control systems. They consumed nearly all the available oxygen in the rivers, making them uninhabitable for native aquatic life. Milwaukee Sewer History The Clean Water Act defines “pollution” as the “man-made or man-induced alteration of the chemical, physical, biological, or radiological integrity of water.” More general pollution includes any alteration in the character or quality of the environment, or any of its components, that renders it harmful or less suited for certain uses. Our ancestors left us a toxic legacy. Milwaukee River (GLLA) project. Milwaukee’s ultimate goal is to quit the AOC Club, i.e., to be “delisted” as an Area of Concern. In scale, speed, and impact, it would be a huge step forward for Milwaukee and a historic win for the entire Great Lakes region. The muck at the bottom of those rivers is another story entirely. See also the Copyright, Privacy, and Terms & Conditions. The study was released last fall by the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District and Veolia, the French company that operates and maintains Milwaukee’s sewage treatment facilities. The rivers, lakes, groundwater and lands in the Milwaukee River basin sustain a wide range of plant and animal life. It’s an odd position to be in, but someone has to be the grown-up here. It's a transformation that began in the early 1990s when the Milwaukee RiverWalk District formed in partnership with the City of Milwaukee. This pump, designed by Edwin Reynolds (1831-1909) and built by the … Photo is dated 5-1-1967. The grade is based on measures of pollution and conditions for … There are a great number of communities that … Kayaks and fishing boats share the river with party boats. In fact, the program most relevant to Milwaukee can be fairly summarized in capital letters: The EPA’s GLRI supports RAPs to remove BUIs in AOCs. Before we can leave the club, we’re going to have to get rid of the toxic ghosts that lurk in our watery basements. Once the center of commerce and recreation, the Milwaukee River had become one of the City's most neglected amenities. It is locally called the "KK River". It was capable of pumping more than a half billion gallons of water a day, the highest-capacity pump in the world when installed. Photo measures 6 x 8 inches. Like a vibrant ribbon, the Milwaukee River, with its sidewalk cafes, shops, public art, green spaces, and special events, has defined development in downtown Milwaukee. When AOCs were originally identified, there were 43 areas in the Great Lakes region. Also the water quality in the Milwaukee river is degraded because of suspended solids in the water such as sand, and soil, along with organic materials, liter, and all types of sewage. “‘Everything but the Squeal’: The Milwaukee Stockyards and Meat-packing Industry, 1840-1930.” Wisconsin Magazine of History 78 no. Membership need not be permanent. The work is decidedly unglamorous but entirely necessary. Last March, when Milwaukee learned that it would be hosting the 2020 Democratic National Convention, you could practically feel the city’s pulse quicken. NATIONAL HISTORIC. Please keep your community civil. [7] An 1878 Health Commission report found that more than 100 tons of excrement were washed from the stockyards into the river every day. The AOCs are a club that no one wants to join. Since the Milwaukee River ultimately flows into Lake Michigan, the sewage being flushed out of the river ended up in the Lake. [17] This facility, located on the north end of Jones Island, is still used today. When you get to the bottom of this alphabet soup, the underlying reality is undiluted good news: Milwaukee has a generational opportunity to solve one of its longest-standing problems, not piecemeal but all at once. One is the former burial site of hundreds of drums of industrial chemicals (6800 S. 27th Street); the other is the site of the former Moss-American Oil Company (8716 Granville Road). 10% of sites that were tested for lead had concentrations over 7.2 parts per billion. By the early 1960s, the county reported that solid air pollutants—such as fly ash and soot—had dropped to their lowest levels since monitoring began. The Milwaukee and Kinnickinnic rivers became little more than open sewers. Soon, the wild rice was gone. Before Milwaukee became the large inhabited city that it is today, the Milwaukee River was much different, and functioned much differently than it does today. The Natives used the area of fish and other wildlife in the surrounding area, along with other resources. Although environmental pollution can be caused by natural events such as forest fires and active volcanoes, use of the word pollution generally implies that the contaminants have an anthropogenic source—that is, a source created by human activities. The Milwaukee River used to be very, very polluted as were many of our rivers across the country from industry to dumping, and it's come a long way. The Fox River is home to many paper mills that were the backbone of some of Wisconsin’s most famous cities. With the rise in population, privies began to contaminate the groundwater so much that well water in most areas of the city became unsafe. They include degraded wildlife habitat and poor aesthetics—problems that will be addressed in due time—but seven of the eleven impairments that landed Milwaukee on the list rise from contaminated sediments. Over the course of several years, the city began switching its power plants away from pulverized coal, and the state offered tax credits to factories that took action to reduce smoke output. For the 2016 to 2018 monitoring period, Milwaukee received a passing “A” rating for both annual and 24-hour PM2.5 pollution, but received a failing “F” rating for ozone. A National Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark The Poplawski Blender The first electric blender was developed by Stephen J. Poplawski of Racine, about 1915. One major way that sewage can get into the river is from old, aging sewer infrastructure, causing sewage to leak into the river. In 1888, the city completed its most intensive effort to date to combat river pollution. The “legacy” contaminants of our polluted past are still there, endangering human health, killing aquatic organisms, causing deformities in fish, and compromising our claim to be a global water hub. Like a vibrant ribbon, the Milwaukee River, with its sidewalk cafes, shops, public art, green spaces, and special events, has defined development in downtown Milwaukee. By 1910, chlorine was being used as a disinfectant. Fox River pollution has been an issue in Wisconsin since as early as the early 1900s. Riverwalk History. The EPA has identified ten AOCs, Milwaukee’s among them, as priority targets for its Great Lakes remediation efforts over the next four years. Giant vacuum hoses would suck up the contaminated muck from approximately seven miles on the Milwaukee River, three on the Menomonee, and two on the Kinnickinnic, including the basin where all three streams meet and tons of the region’s waste came to rest. Despite these reforms, damage done to the river ways caused serious water quality issues into the 1970s. However reduced in scale, this month’s convention will bring new recognition and at least a trickle of new money to a city that has generally flown below America’s radar. The first priority of municipal borrowing had been to help railroads build into the city. Milwaukee’s significant and consistent reductions in fine particle pollution indicate these regulations have been successful. Most of Jones Island is already “made land” deposited over the last century. Along with other resources when the Milwaukee Stockyards opened in the world installed. With viewers developments aimed at improving water quality ” would then be covered dirt... Provided by U.S. taxpayers and the rest from local industries air pollution as well as large-particle solid pollutants from. 1846, wild rice, however, the sewage being flushed out of the proposed AOC cleanup is clear public. 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