On Point newsletter for December 2014

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On Point - News and updates for wastewater discharge permit holders

December 2014

Kings Park project to be crowned with Innovation Award

Kings Park wastewater project

The Humphrey Institute has selected Oronoco Township in Olmsted County for a Local Government Innovation Award for its efforts to bring wastewater treatment to the Kings Park community. Financed by Clean Water Legacy funds, this project will serve 14 homes on the Zumbro River in southeast Minnesota.

Currently in its eighth year, the Local Government Innovation Awards recognize outstanding cities, townships, counties, and schools in Minnesota that demonstrate results in improving local services. This program is led by Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. Each year, up to 18 local government entities are recognized for their innovative work. Oronoco Township is scheduled to receive the award Dec. 11.

Kings Park is located near the confluence of the Zumbro River’s middle and south forks. Some of the homes were discharging raw sewage to the surface or directly into the Zumbro. Other homes had old systems that no longer met state standards. Starting in 2011, the community began exploring options for a new sewer system with strong support from Oronoco Township, which agreed to own and manage the new system for the community.

An assessment found that the lowest cost option for wastewater treatment was to build a cluster (shared) mound system (photo above). One of the community members agreed to sell land to locate the new system. The community received grants from the Minnesota Public Facilities Authority, a state agency that helps fund sewer systems, to help with planning and construction. The funding also included a low-interest loan for home owners. This financing helps make wastewater projects affordable for home owners.

Also helping with the project was Sheila Craig, a facilitator with the Southeast Minnesota Wastewater Initiative, locally known as "the Sewer Squad." The Sewer Squad is a partnership of the Southeast Minnesota Water Resources Board, Cannon River Watershed Partnership and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA).

Since 2002, the Sewer Squad has worked with small communities in 13 counties to address the need for sewage treatment. Through the squad’s assistance, 21 small communities have upgraded their sewer systems, eliminating about 106 million gallons per year of untreated sewage from entering the rivers and streams of southeast Minnesota, with more projects in the works.

For this collaborative work, the Cannon River Watershed Partnership is receiving an $88,213 grant from the Bush Foundation. The foundation notes the success of the Sewer Squad’s innovative approach on its website:

This collaborative strategy builds widespread trust, effective treatment approaches and local competency around wastewater issues. It also has paid off in user rates that are, on average, much lower than in similar size communities in other parts of the state.”

The Sewer Squad started from the Basin Alliance for the Lower Mississippi in Minnesota (BALMM), which the MPCA continues to coordinate with local partners. The catalyst was the Lower Mississippi Regional TMDL for Fecal Coliform, which identified strategies to address point sources through wastewater treatment and nonpoint sources through feedlot fixes and manure management. Those efforts are working as told in the Minnesota Water Story, "BALMM a remedy for rivers."

Is your community ready for project funding?

More than 1,300 municipal entities are eligible for state funding to improve their wastewater, stormwater or drinking water systems. The MPCA and partners will be sending notices to eligible entities this month so check your mail for the good news. For more information, visit the MPCA Wastewater and Stormwater Financial assistance webpage.

Note the deadline below.

Project Priority List (PPL) – Clean Water Revolving Fund

For wastewater and stormwater projects, the deadline is March 6, 2015 (on or before) to the MPCA for the:

  • PPL application and scoring worksheet (Including supporting documentation, as required
  • Wastewater facilities plans
  • Stormwater project plans

Note that the agency has a new address for PPL submittals: PPL.Submittals.PCA@state.mn.us.

CDC issues guidance on Ebola and wastewater

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently released “Interim Guidance for Managers and Workers Handling Untreated Sewage from Individuals with Ebola in the United States.” The guidance focuses on education, establishing protocols and emphasizing good personal hygiene to prevent infection.

In Minnesota, the MPCA continues to work closely with the Minnesota Health Department, the lead state agency on Ebola, on planning and preparing for this disease should an outbreak occur here. At the request of the MDH, the MPCA would support the response by overseeing and performing decontamination activities at non-healthcare facilities. The MPCA would also oversee waste management and disposal activities. These webpages and fact sheet provide guidance for local government planners:

eDMR news: Calculator a success, more changes coming


Sample Values update

Many permitees are submitting sample values online with great success. They are using the calculator tool to populate their eDMRs and find it is pretty slick. Most users are having no problems, although some report problems with specific parameters.

If you are not submitting sample values yet, the MPCA asks that you begin as soon as possible. If you begin using the system now, it will help when you transition to online service changes in the future. If you need help with submitting sample values, please contact your assigned compliance staff person. Look on this online map for staff assignments by counties.

Future online services update

Changes to eDMR services are scheduled to begin on Feb. 23, 2015. The revised portal will look different from the current portal. The eDMR and sample values spreadsheets, online eDMR, and calculator tool will look and work almost the same as they do now. Those currently authorized to submit eDMRs should not need to obtain new authorization. The MPCA plans to move your accounts to the new system. However, there are changes regarding account numbers and passwords. You will also be required to have a Personal Identification Number (PIN). This is something new but is easy to set up. Because of these potential changes, the 2015 DMR spreadsheets may not be available for download until late in December 2014.

The MPCA is developing new guidance and will place it on the eDMR webpage as soon as available. The agency is finalizing a plan to provide training to users in January and February 2015. MPCA compliance staff will also be available for training and assistance. Please call them first with any questions regarding completing the eDMR and sample values processes.

You will receive more updates from the MPCA in January and February 2015. Agency staff will email eDMR submitters, so please make sure your email addresses are correct. If you are not the eDMR submitter, please make sure that person forwards any emails to you. The MPCA will also send a postcard reminder to eDMR submitters. Please stay tuned and it will be critical for you to read emails from the MPCA during this time.

MPCA amending Water Quality Variance rules to achieve consistency

The MPCA is amending its Water Quality Variance rules and planning to publish notice of the proposed rules in early 2015.

A Water Quality Variance is a temporary change in a state's water quality standard for a specific pollutant and its relevant criteria, allowing a particular discharger to deviate from meeting a water quality-based effluent limit. 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 United States Environmental Protection Agency (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 comply with federal requirements. The rule changes are to address these differences and provide consistent application of the state’s variance rules and federal requirements.

If interested in receiving electronic notices about these rules, the agency encourages you to subscribe to Water Quality Variance Rule email updates. Information on these rules is available on the MPCA’s Water Quality Variance Rulemaking webpage.

System Collection operators should attend Wastewater Operations Conference in March

Because the MPCA is not having its "Collection Annual" this year, System Collection Operators should attend the annual Wastewater Operations Conference, traditionally held in March. SC Operators can qualify for their necessary contact credit hours at this conference. Look for conference details at the beginning of 2015 on the Wastewater Operator Training Seminars webpage.

Survey: Vast majority say more education needed on chemical additive review process

In last quarter’s On Point newsletter, the MPCA reported that permit holders would receive a survey on the agency’s chemical additive review process. The MPCA received more than 500 survey responses! Thank you to all who responded. The respondents were divided fairly equally between municipal and industrial facilities (55% municipal and 45% industrial).

Of the responses, 78% said more education on the chemical additive review process would be helpful. As a result, the MPCA will give a presentation on its chemical additive review process at the Wastewater Operations Conference in March 2015 as part of the industrial wastewater sector. A registration form for this conference will be available on the MPCA website soon. The agency will also work to provide more information via electronic channels. The chart below shows how respondents would like to receive educational materials.

MPCA staff continue to develop an electronic form that will help you walk through the chemical additive approval process. Thank you to survey respondents who provided feedback on this new development. The agency plans to include an overview of this new form as part of its presentation at the Wastewater Operations Conference in March. MPCA staff hope that this new form will better inform you of how an additive is approved so that the process is more efficient and transparent. Stay tuned for more updates as they develop.

Survey results on chemical additive approval process

Permitting questions? Check out the manual

Whether reading a permit as an operator, mayor, owner, board member, clerk or board member, understanding all sections of a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System/State Disposal System (NPDES/SDS) permit is the first step to compliance. MPCA recently revised “The Permit User’s Manual,” which is designed to complement the NPDES/SDS wastewater permit issued to you by the agency. This document contains information that may help answer questions regarding everything from the application process to the sampling required to meet limits and monitoring requirements and definitions of terms used in permits. 

You can find the manual on the MPCA website at www.pca.state.mn.us by searching for “Permit User’s Manual” or at this direct link

Thinking ahead to spring: Is your facility ready for a release?

Sample bottle

Winter is a good time to prepare for spring flooding. In addition to spare pumps, generators, sand bags, and other equipment, does your facility have spare sample bottles on hand in case of an unplanned release? Every wastewater permit issued by the MPCA includes requirements to maintain appropriate backup equipment and to collect representative samples of an unplanned release of wastewater.

Many wastewater facilities receive sample bottles from contract laboratories which in turn are shipped back to the lab for analysis. Wastewater facilities should make sure they have enough spare sample bottles on hand, which may require contacting the lab to make arrangements. Please note that some sample bottles and/or preservatives may have expiration dates. So check bottle expiration dates at least twice per year and ask the lab how to store the bottles to maximize their use time.

Facilities should be prepared to analyze a release minimally for total suspended solids, fecal coliform and the other parameters listed on this MPCA wastewater release sampling report.  Note that your facility’s specific permit may require parameters to be analyzed in addition to those listed on the form. 

Speaking of flooding, EPA provides new guide for utilities

Drinking water and wastewater utilities are particularly vulnerable to flooding, which can damage pumps, disconnect chemical tanks, break distribution lines and disrupt power supply. Targeted to small and medium utilities, the EPA’s new Flood Resilience Guide outlines a simple, 4-step assessment process to help any water utility know its flooding threat and identify practical mitigation options to protect their critical assets. With a user-friendly layout, the guide provides worksheets, instructional videos, and flood maps to help utilities through the process.

Tweet, tweet: Follow wastewater manager on Twitter

For the latest on wastewater issues in Minnesota, follow MPCA Municipal Wastewater Manager Wendy Turri on Twitter:


(Did you notice that was less than 140 characters?)


In the news and online

Haigh announces departure from Metropolitan Council on the agency’s website

Waste water system pits environmental rules vs. Amish ways in the StarTribune

Small town tackles big project for Blue Earth River on the MPCA website

Our View: Wastewater is not to be wasted in the Mankato Free Press

Met Council orders cities to fix leaky pipes or pay costly fines in the St. Paul Pioneer Press

Barrel O’ Fun pays penalty in response to odor problems from wastewater on the MPCA website

MPCA releases draft WLSSD wastewater permit on the MPCA website