On Point for June 2017: Historic funding, permitting changes, eDMR tips

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On Point - News and updates for wastewater discharge permit holders

June 2019

Legislative session ends with historic levels of funding for water infrastructure

Sewer Squad project in Olmsted County

The final bonding bill from the Minnesota Legislature this year will bring much-needed relief to many communities. While much less than Gov. Mark Dayton recommended, the Legislature passed funding at historic levels for Public Facilities Authority (PFA) programs. A total of $121.7 million is in line for programs to help communities with water infrastructure needs.

Many communities had to delay important infrastructure projects after the 2016 legislative session ended without a bonding bill and without policy changes aimed to help communities meet water and wastewater treatment needs.

While the 2017 session came down to the wire, the final result was a dramatic increase in state assistance, thanks to local and state governments working together to demonstrate the need. Here are the final 2017 PFA appropriations compared to the governor’s recommendations:

  • Bonding funds to provide state match for clean water and drinking water revolving funds: $25 million recommended, $17 million appropriated
  • Bonding funds for Water Infrastructure Fund (WIF) Grants: $55 million recommended for wastewater, $40 million appropriated; $25 million recommended for drinking water, $15 million appropriated
  • Bonding funds for Point Source Implementation Grants (PSIG): $62 million recommended, $33.7 million appropriated
  • Clean Water Legacy Funds for Point Source Implementation Grants (PSIG): $17 million recommended, $15.7 million appropriated
  • Clean Water Legacy Funds for small community wastewater treatment: $250,000 recommended, $250,000 appropriated
  • Total for PFA programs: $184.2 million recommended, $121.7 million appropriated

Other highlights from the session:

  • The Wastewater Infrastructure Funding (WIF) program was renamed “Water Infrastructure Funding” program and has expanded to provide affordability grants for drinking water projects.  The maximum level for WIF grants increased from $4 million to $5 million.
  • The Point Source Implementation Grant Program (PSIG) program increased grants from 50% to 80% of eligible costs, and the maximum grant per project increased from $3 million to $7 million.
  • State match dollars for the clean water and drinking water revolving fund loan programs will provide the required 20% match to Fiscal Year 2017-2018 federal capitalization grants, allowing the PFA to include a fundable range for new projects in its 2018 Intended Use Plans.

The PFA provides financing and technical assistance to help communities build public infrastructure that protects public health and the environment while promoting economic growth. The authority makes low-interest loans and grants available to finance infrastructure that might otherwise be unaffordable to communities if they had to borrow money for the projects at market rates. Since inception in 1987, the PFA has financed $4.5 billion in public infrastructure projects in communities throughout Minnesota.

The PFA has many partners, including the MPCA. The MPCA’s role is to rank proposed wastewater and stormwater projects on its Clean Water Project Priority List, conduct technical and environmental reviews, and certify approved projects to PFA for funding.

When announcing his water infrastructure initiative in early 2016, Gov. Dayton noted that the estimated water infrastructure needs in Minnesota exceed $11 billion over the next 20 years, requiring higher state funding over the long-term. State agencies are already working on bonding proposals for the 2018 legislative session. 

For more information about these programs, contact Bill Dunn, wastewater and stormwater financial assistance programs coordinator for the MPCA, at 651-757-2324 or bill.dunn@state.mn.us.

Open for comment: Possible increases to MPCA water quality permit fees

The fees the MPCA charges for water-related permitting only cover 17% of the cost of delivering the programs associated with those fees. The agency has not comprehensively increased its fees in almost 25 years. In addition, the fees charged across programs are inconsistent, and some regulated parties cover more of their program’s costs than others.

The MPCA is planning changes to the water quality fee rules - Minnesota Rules chapters 7002 and 7083 - that may increase permit application, annual, and additional fees. The amendments will adjust fees to reflect a fairer and more equitable distribution of permit costs among affected permittees. The MPCA proposes to update fees to reflect the actual costs of administering state and federal requirements associated with fee-based water quality programs that protect the state’s water resources. The MPCA will also consider changes to include an inflation factor to enable fees to reflect our increasing costs as well as a schedule for phasing in fee changes.

The MPCA may make rule changes to some or all fees related to:

  • Municipal and industrial wastewater permits
  • Noncontact cooling water permits
  • Stormwater permits
  • Feedlot permits
  • Septic systems
  • Environmental review
  • Variances
  • Laboratory certification

The MPCA may make rule changes to some or all of these fees.

The agency is accepting comment on amending the rules through Aug. 14. See the MPCA Public Notice webpage for more information.  

A stakeholder video conference on this rulemaking will be held on Monday, July 24, from 2-4 p.m. and again from 6-8 p.m., at the MPCA St. Paul office and regional offices. The purpose of the meeting is to share information about this rulemaking so that stakeholders are able to provide verbal input at the meeting and written comments by Aug. 14.

To stay informed on MPCA water-related rulemaking sign up for e-mails through GovDelivery.

Also see these fact sheets:

eDMR news

Tips: Submit reports by or before 21st of month, watch those decimal points


Sometimes it’s the simple things that can trip up eDMRs, such as missing the monthly deadline or misplacing a decimal.

Permit holders must submit their eDMRs (discharge monitoring reports) to the MPCA by the 21st of each month. Submitting them after this date is a violation of wastewater discharge permits. If waiting until the 21st, permit holders take the risk of computer glitches and other problems delaying the submission. To avoid violations, please submit your data as soon as you have it.

Also, double-check decimal points. A missing or misplaced decimal can quickly complicate things. Take your time and take another look when completing your eDMRs.

If you have any questions or need assistance, please contact your compliance and enforcement officer.

Additional information is available on the MPCA DMR webpage.

More time to review permits: We heard you and what we’re doing

During a series of listening sessions in 2016, the MPCA heard from wastewater discharge permit holders that they wanted more time to review draft permits before they go on public notice. Communities were asking for more time to accommodate city council schedules, allow input from consulting engineers, and other factors.

Under legislation passed during the 2017 session and signed by Gov. Mark Dayton, National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit holders now have an additional 30 days to review their draft permits before they go public notice. The public notice is also 30 days longer for a total of 60 days.

These changes extend the agency’s timeline goal for issuing permits from 150 days to 210 – 30 more days to review a draft permit by the municipality and 30 more days for public comment.

In general, the MPCA follows this process for issuing permits:

  • Municipality submits permit application
  • MPCA team reviews all info to develop permit (compliance, impaired waters, effluent limits)
  • MPCA notifies permit holder of any new requirements
  • MPCA develops permit and supporting documents
  • Permit holder reviews draft permit before public notice (60 days now instead of 30)
  • Public notice for interested parties to provide comment in draft permit (60 days now instead of 30)
  • Final permit issued

The MPCA supports these changes and looks forward to the additional time for more communication between agency and community staff.

Registrations open for biosolids refresher course Aug. 22-23

Wastewater operators needing to renew their biosolids certification may register now for the Type IV Refresher Course on land application of biosolids. The course is set for Aug. 22-23 at the Holiday Inn in Lakeville. This will be the last refresher course of 2017. For more information, see the Wastewater Operator Training Calendar webpage with a registration form on the last page.

New federal rule aims to decrease to reduce mercury discharges from dental offices

Mercury drops

A new federal rule designed to decrease mercury discharges from dental offices to wastewater treatment plants will take effect July 14. Dental professionals use amalgam  – a mixture of metals – for filling cavities in teeth. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule requires dental offices to use amalgam separators and two best management practices recommended by the American Dental Assoc.

The EPA has found amalgam separators to be a practical, affordable and readily available technology for capturing mercury and other metals before they are discharged to municipal wastewater treatment plants. Once captured by a separator, mercury can be recycled.

The agency expects compliance with this final rule will annually reduce the discharge of mercury by 5.1 tons as well as 5.3 tons of other metals found in waste dental amalgam to treatment plants.

For more information, see the EPA’s webpage on “Dental effluent guidelines.” The MPCA has also worked with the dental industry to reduce mercury use and waste. See the agency's "Managing dental waste" webpage for details.

Collection system owners responsible for preventing releases of wastewater

Wastewater release sign

Minnesota’s weather and other factors can lead to things going wrong for collecting and treating wastewater. Some local units of government own, operate and maintain a sanitary sewer collection system that goes to a different city for treatment. Operating and maintaining a collection system requires a license from the MPCA.

When things go wrong, the city that collects the wastewater may need to release raw sewage or partially treated sewage to the environment. This type of discharge is called an “unauthorized release,” “bypass” or “overflow” of wastewater. All of them are prohibited.

Use the information below to respond to any release from a collection system:

When deciding to release wastewater from a collection system or when discovering a release, the collection system owner-operator must immediately report it to the Minnesota Duty Officer at 1-800-422-0789 (651-649-5451 in the Twin Cities). This notification is required by state law.

When notifying the Minnesota Duty Officer, please inform the officer that the event is a “wastewater” release.

Also have the following information for reporting to the Duty Officer. At the time of the initial call, staff may not have all the information below so may need to make supplemental calls.  

  • Release location
  • Time the release began
  • If the release has ended
  • Point at which the release entered a water body
  • Name of the water body
  • Amount of the discharge (an estimate in gallons)
  • Actions taken to respond, recover, and mitigate the overflow
  • Cause of the overflow or release, such as a weather event or equipment failure

Sample the release to determine any effects to waters of the state.

For sampling, use the Release Sampling Form on the MPCA website. The Release Form provides a list of common parameters sampled for in domestic wastewater and additional sampling based on knowledge of the wastewater collected. Each sampling event must be reported on a separate form. 

This form should be completed and submitted upon receiving sampling results, but no later than 30 days after the release. If you do not normally submit DMRs to the MPCA, then please mail the Release Sampling Form to: MPCA, Attn: WQ Submittals Center, 520 Lafayette Road North, St. Paul, Minnesota 55155-4194.

Fill out the form completely and accurately:

  • Make sure the Minnesota Duty Officer Report Number box is completed. The Duty Officer assigns this at the time of the initial call. Be sure to ask for it.  
  • Make sure each sample value has the date and time of sample recorded next to it. If leaving something blank, then explain briefly why the information is missing.
  • Report values in the correct column.
  • Make sure the form is signed.

Both the collection system owners and the MPCA have a responsibility to prevent and reduce sanitary sewer overflows. Collection system owners can achieve this by developing and implementing an asset management program and/or capital improvement plan that promotes routine collection system operation and maintenance activities. 

Additionally, the MPCA recommends that owners develop a sanitary sewer overflow response plan to ensure staff are prepared for such an event and to minimize the impact to the public and the environment.

The Minnesota League of Cities offers these tools to assess sewer systems:

In the news and online: Sump pump inspections, local projects, FAQs on wastewater