Public notice begins for changes to state water quality variance rules

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On Point - News and updates for wastewater discharge permit holders

November 2015 Special Edition

Public notice begins for changes to make state water quality variance rules more consistent

Some wastewater facilities may find it difficult to meet stricter limits on pollutants in their discharge permits because of a lack of treatment technologies or treatment costs or both. For example, several cities have expressed concern about meeting chloride limits. In the coming years the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) expects more communities to apply for variances, which are temporary changes in state water quality standards for a specific pollutant.

The purpose of variances is to give permit holders time to implement changes to be able to meet discharge limits. The variances also set timelines and interim limits to make sure permit holders are working toward meeting the stricter limits.

However, stakeholders determined the existing water variance rules were not clear or consistent, and the application process was confusing. After meeting with stakeholders and receiving comment on draft rule language, the MPCA is proposing changes to Minnesota’s water quality variance rules to make them more clear and consistent. These proposed rules are open for further public comment through Dec. 29, 2015.

As the agency delegated to implement the Clean Water Act, the MPCA may grant variances through the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System/State Disposal System (NPDES/SDS) permit program. Because of this delegation, MPCA must assess a variance using the same conditions and criteria that the U.S. EPA uses.

Minnesota’s water quality rules have variance provisions in three different rule chapters. The procedures for granting a variance are different in each chapter. The chapter 7052 rules are based on federal rules and apply to the Lake Superior Basin while the chapter 7050 and 7053 rules apply to the rest of the state and differ from federal requirements. These differences are confusing to regulated parties, and make it difficult for the MPCA to maintain consistency in the variance process and compliance with applicable federal requirements. The rule changes are to address these differences and provide consistent application of the state’s variance rules and applicable federal requirements.

The rule amendments are only concerned with the procedural requirements for obtaining a variance and will not result in more or less restrictive water quality standards or change to a water quality standard of any kind.

Information on these rules is available on the MPCA’s Water Quality Variance Rulemaking webpage.

eDMR news

Tips for submitting reports during transition to new service


The MPCA thanks permit holders for their patience during the electronic Discharge Monitoring Records (eDMR) transition to a new service. Please follow these quick tips for submitting your eDMRs:

  • You must download the Sample Values and eDMR spreadsheets from the new eServices.
  • You CANNOT use the previously downloaded versions in the new system; if you do your submittal will fail.
  • You must submit the Sample Values spreadsheet first and then submit the DMR.
  • You can now attach supporting documentation to the DMR submittal.

Step-by-step instructions for downloading and submitting sample values and DMRs can be found at:

A Sample Values Spreadsheet video tutorial can also be found at:

If you have questions about the eDMR process, please contact your assigned MPCA Compliance Staff person. You can identify that person by visiting this webpage.

New process for Facility Operational Awards

The Wastewater Treatment Facility Operational Awards application and review process is changing this year. Facilities will no longer be required to submit a self-nomination application form.  Instead, MPCA staff will be reviewing the compliance status of all eligible facilities to determine award recipients. You will be contacted in early 2016 if your facility is receiving an award. The awards ceremony will be held during the Annual Wastewater Operations Conference in March 2016.  Please contact Kaitlin Jamieson with any questions at or 651-757-2306.