On Point for September 2015

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On Point - News and updates for wastewater discharge permit holders

September 2015

Success story:

Tap into U of M program to reduce pollution, energy use

MnTAP intern at Hutchinson WWTP

Wastewater treatment plants can tap into a University of Minnesota program to help reduce the environmental impact of their treatment processes. MnTAP – short for Minnesota Technical Assistance Program – works to mitigate pollution by identifying the causes and sources of pollution, and working with the source to change contributing processes, procedures and equipment.

MnTAP assists state business and institutions in Minnesota with reducing their environmental impact by targeting the sources of waste and pollution. As part of the University of Minnesota, MnTAP services are non-regulatory (voluntary) and major funding from MPCA allows most services to be offered at no cost. See MnTAP’s website for more information on water- related services and resources.

On wastewater issues, MnTAP has worked with businesses directly on problems identified by the business or the Publicly Owned Treatment Plants (POTWs). In fact, it’s common for treatment plants to introduce a business customer to MnTAP to solve a problem. In the metro area, MnTAP has worked on volume reduction to reduce Sewer Availability Charges from the Metropolitan Council Environmental Services.  The program has also worked to identify and reduce sources of metals such as zinc and mercury, biological oxygen demand (BOD), and phosphorus in business wastewater discharges.

In addition, MnTAP can work with POTWs directly. For example, the program has assisted with developing phosphorus and mercury management plans, and more recently with contamination source identification and energy conservation analysis and assessment.

Occasionally, MnTAP has worked with the POTW treatment process itself. Two examples include research to improve pond pH control to avoid acid additions, and evaluating the potential to use excess oxidation ditch capacity to denitrify discharges.  In that last example, denitrification impacts were minimal but ditch operations were able to be consolidated which reduced ditch aeration energy by 43 percent.

MnTAP currently has a U.S. Department of Energy grant to do further energy conservation work with POTWs to reduce operating costs while eliminating the environmental impacts of excess energy use. The program is looking for plants interested in improving the energy performance of aeration, pumping and disinfection operations, as well as plants interested in improving their biogas utilization. The primary MPCA contacts helping with this project are Pam Meyer and Bill Dunn. Wastewater plants interested in learning more or participating should contact MnTAP’s AJ Van den Berghe, 651-624-4653

Interns are an important part of MnTAP’s services. In the last 10 years, six interns have worked on POTW energy conservation projects identified by the plants related to dissolved oxygen and aeration control. In addition, in 2015 six interns worked on projects to reduce various aspects of upstream wastewater loads and volumes.

With MnTAP, the U of M continues its 30-year tradition of scientists and engineers helping Minnesota reduce waste, conserve water and energy, reduce air emissions, increase efficiencies, and save money.

In the photo above, Yulin Ye, a 2013 MnTAP intern, collects water samples for nutrient testing at the Hutchinson Wastewater Treatment Facility.

River eutrophication standards: What they mean for effluent limits

Cannon-Wolf confluence

Managing phosphorus is essential for protecting Minnesota’s surface waters. Excess nutrients, primarily phosphorus, can ultimately lead to nuisance algal blooms in lakes and streams, a process called eutrophication. Lakes and streams in Minnesota are diverse and complex systems, and require a tailored approach to protect them from excess phosphorus loading (example is Rum River in the photo at right).

Since 2000, Minnesota has seen a noticeable decrease in the Total Phosphorus concentrations of some streams and rivers that can be attributed to point source reductions and the adoption of the phosphorus rule (Minn. R. 7053.0255). In 2008, Minnesota adopted lake eutrophication standards (LES) that set defined phosphorus, algae, and clarity goals for Minnesota’s lakes. Similarly, Minnesota adopted river eutrophication standards (RES) earlier this year, to set phosphorus and algae goals for rivers and streams.

Rum River

In general, the adoption of RES means more restrictive phosphorus limits may be necessary for some facilities discharging to or upstream of rivers with high phosphorus and algae concentrations (see the photo of the Wolf-Cannon River confluence above). When setting a phosphorus limit, effluent limit review staff will determine if existing phosphorus limits required by state rule or LES are sufficient to protect local rivers from excess algae growth. By applying both LES and RES analyses along with state rule, permitted phosphorus limits will protect aquatic life and recreation in our valued waters.

The MPCA has developed an implementation procedures document outlining how these limits will be set, and will soon be available on the MPCA website – stay tuned for updates in future issues of On Point. If you would like a copy before then, contact Steve Weiss at Steven.Weiss@state.mn.us.

See the article below by MPCA Commissioner John Linc Stine for more information about the new standards.

Clean water worth the price

New standards designed to protect rivers choking with algae

Nutrients fuel algal blooms

By John Linc Stine

Commissioner of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

We all want clean water for drinking, fishing and swimming – on that we all agree. How to achieve clean water is a much more challenging and complex issue to solve. We’re miles ahead of other states in what we know about water quality, thanks to Clean Water funding approved by voters.

Recently, some cities have raised concerns about the cost of meeting new limits on wastewater treatment discharges. Over the past century advances in wastewater treatment have led to major improvements in public health and surface waters that receive wastewater discharges. However in some places more treatment is needed, especially to remove phosphorus that acts as food for harmful algae.

Phosphorus getting into rivers leads to a vicious cycle:  Phosphorus is a great fertilizer for algae, causing these rootless plants to grow quickly. Algae don’t live long, resulting in a lot of dead organic matter that uses up oxygen in the water as the plants decay. That leaves less oxygen for fish, bugs and other aquatic life. MPCA and local studies show that aquatic life is suffering in many Minnesota rivers. Algae also make the water unsightly and smelly for swimming, paddling and fishing. Some forms can even make animals and people sick.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Technology can drastically reduce phosphorus, with other tools available for communities to address pollutant problems. Minnesota also offers funding options to make these updates manageable. While wastewater is only one source of phosphorus in rivers, its treatment is a critical part of keeping waters healthy.  

The exact cost for cities to upgrade their wastewater treatment is not yet known. Any estimates about the cost of meeting the new limits are only speculation at this time. That’s because limits are customized for every treatment plant and river. We look at the amount of phosphorus in a river and how that river reacts to it. For example, slow shallow rivers tend to grow more algae while deeper and faster rivers grow less.

The cost of improving water quality is always factored into our limit setting. It’s why the state offers grants and low-interest loans to reduce pollution. It’s why cities can phase in compliance with new rules and use innovative approaches. It’s why cities can apply for a variance, allowing them to exceed a limit while making progress toward the goal. It’s why we’re working with cities to set their phosphorus limits and find affordable ways to meet them.

The MPCA will look at each plant and figure out the limit on phosphorus for that plant and that river to make a difference. Some will need to reduce more phosphorus and others won’t. This approach makes more sense economically and environmentally than setting one limit that all plants have to meet whether it helps their local rivers or not.

We’re confident in the science behind the proposed limits. We’re also confident that communities will find ways to do their share to clean up Minnesota’s rivers. We look at Bemidji and Ely that have been meeting strict phosphorus limits since the 1970s. Throughout Minnesota more than 240 cities are already being held to these more stringent limits.

Fishable, swimmable and drinkable waters are essential to our way of life. They’re also essential to communities downstream. We all want clean water. We all recognize the value it brings to Minnesota: both in terms of tangible economic benefits such as increased property values and a robust tourism industry, and intangible benefits that enrich our lives as Minnesotans. We must work together to find creative, cost-effective solutions to paying for it. We can achieve water quality when we all do our fair share.

Chemical additive review process now live

As mentioned in previous editions of the On Point newsletter, MPCA has been working on updating its process for review and approval of chemical additives. The agency is pleased to announce that this new process is now live!  Visit the chemical additive approvals webpage to learn more about the latest process. 

Chemical additives used for wastewater treatment that are new, increasing in usage, or not previously approved need to receive approval through the new chemical additive review process. Documents necessary for additive approval, including the Chemical Additive Calculator (wq-wwprm2-12a) and the Chemical Additive Review Guidance (wq-wwprm2-12), can be found on the webpage. In addition, YouTube videos with helpful tips from the guidance document and a demonstration of the calculator are available.

If you have any questions or concerns, please email them to additives.pca@state.mn.us or contact the staff indicated on the webpage. We appreciate your input and will do our best to address any concerns.

MPCA introducing new online eServices to submit DMRs


The MPCA will soon introduce new online eServices to submit Discharge Monitoring Reports (DMRs). As part of this transition, the current eDMR portal will be shut down from Sept. 25 to Oct. 6.During this time, users will not be able to access the current eDMR portal to view previously submitted DMRs, submit or amend DMRs, or download any spreadsheets.

The new online eServices will not be available until Oct. 7, at which time, all users must create a new account. Users will notice that it looks different from what is displayed in the current eDMR Portal, but the process for submittal of the Sample Values Spreadsheet and DMR will be generally the same. A new submittal authorization agreement will need to be signed and submitted ONLY if you are a new submitter. Access to the existing eDMR Portal and new online eService can be found at: http://www.pca.state.mn.us/aj0r1091  

The MPCA has created helpful guidance and YouTube videos on how to create the new accounts and submit the DMRs. The updated guidance and videos can be found on the DMR webpage at: http://www.pca.state.mn.us/hqzqb28

Please review the guidance materials and complete the account creation process as soon as possible starting Oct. 7. This will help with the transition to the new online eServices and submittal of the September 2015 DMRs.

If you have any questions regarding this process, feel free to contact your assigned compliance and enforcement staff person.

Environmental compliance conference Oct. 29 in Chicago

The first annual Midwest Environmental Compliance Conference (MECC) hosted by the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and other Environmental Protection Agency Region 5 business associations will be held Oct. 29-30 in Chicago. 

The MPCA will be sending several speakers on topics such as “States as the Engine of Creativity,” “New Online Interface for Water Quality Data Management” and “Elimination of MPCA Citizens Board Impacts on Permitting.” The MPCA will also host a Minnesota breakout session on Oct. 29.

For more information, visit the MECC website.

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