On Point for November 2017: Small town success, keep grease out of sinks

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On Point - News and updates for wastewater discharge permit holders

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Success story: Kasson and Mantorville playing nice in the sandbox

Crews put up panels for Kasson-Mantorville WWTF project

(Editor’s note: This article was written by WHKS and Co. for its newsletter and is published here with its permission.)

Out on the Minnesota prairie, west of Rochester and south of Minneapolis, two small cities have been playing nice together for almost 150 years. The cities of Kasson and Mantorville share schools, ball teams, parks and no doubt pumpkin pie recipes too.

Ten years back, when Mantorville’s waste treatment plant was found to be in need of major upgrades, the two cities began talking about the benefits of sharing treatment facilities too. With just half a mile separating the two municipalities, the infrastructure required to connect them would cost significantly less than the upgrades needed. With the added benefit of economies of scale and the ability to accommodate growth, the decision was an easy one.

After a number of years of discussion between them, and input from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), an agreement was reached to build a force main connector heading south across the gap between the two cities. The eight-inch pipe passes under a river and a highway, traverses the woods and terminates at Kasson’s treatment plant. As the beneficiary of the connection, Mantorville assumed the cost of the force main.

Now that the plant is complete and the valves have been turned on, the old Mantorville treatment plant has been shuttered and will be decommissioned during the summer of 2018. In the meantime, the two cities are looking for even more ways to play nice together.

Photo above: Crews put up panels as part of the project to hook up Mantorville to Kasson’s wastewater treatment facility.

Holiday greeting for your customers: Keep grease out of sinks and wipes out of pipes

Austin, MN WWTF 2016: Wipes filling dumpster

For municipal wastewater treatment facilities, feel free to use this article on your city websites and in your community newsletters. Perhaps even send it to the local newspaper for publication.

This holiday season, do yourself and other taxpayers a favor by keeping grease from turkey and ham dinners out of sinks and other drains. And while you’re at it, stop flushing disposable wipes down the toilet, even if the label claims “flushable.” Sewer workers everywhere dread this time of year when the problem of “fatbergs” – clogs of fats, oil, grease, and wipes – worsens, leading to backups and costly repairs.

Here’s how you can help:

  • Dispose of fat, oil and grease by pouring them onto newspaper or other paper items in the trash, or into a non-recyclable container and then into the trash.
  • Another idea: Soak up grease with pieces of crusty bread pieces, and then put the bread on bird feeders for wild critters.
  • Wipe greasy pans, pots and other dishes out with a paper towel before washing.
  • Place disposable wipes in the trash too.

As this video program shows, disposable wipes may flush down the toilet, but they fail to break down. Cities across Minnesota report costly repairs and upgrades after wipes clog their pumps and pipes.

The MPCA has proposed legislation the last two sessions to require manufacturers to change their labeling on disposable wipes. The proposals didn’t go far, but the agency has created a toolkit to help educate consumers.

More information:

eDMR tip: Make sure groundwater elevations rounded correctly

When using the eDMR calculator, be aware that it may round groundwater elevations to the nearest foot, whereas your wastewater discharge permit requires groundwater elevations be rounded to the nearest hundredth of a foot on the DMR. If you experience this rounding, please add the hundredths place elevation component back in and save the spreadsheet prior to uploading into the eDMR system. If you need assistance, please contact your compliance officer.


'Big report’ is coming back: Look for a draft in your email soon

The “big report” is returning for 2017 and the MPCA needs your help in ensuring the information is accurate. Known as the “big report,” the agency usually publishes a summary of all wastewater permit compliance on an annual basis. Because of changes in its database system last year, the MPCA offered annual compliance information only for individual wastewater permittees and only in an online data browser.

NPDES/SDS permit holders should receive a draft version of the Annual Compliance Summary Report in their email in the weeks following Thanksgiving. This draft will provide permittees the opportunity to review the information in the MPCA’s database regarding their NPDES/SDS permit for the period of Oct. 1, 2016 through Sept. 30, 2017.  This draft version is sent to the facility’s online subscriber(s) for their review. If prompt corrections are sent to MPCA after receipt of the draft version, the updates should be reflected in the final version of the report that will be emailed to the online subscriber and the responsible official for the facility. The MPCA expects to email the final version in early 2018. 

Your updates, in part, help make sure MPCA staff have good data as they review facilities that qualify for Operation Awards that are presented at the Annual Wastewater Operation Conference (see article below).

To ensure delivery of the Annual Compliance Summary Report and avoid diversion to the junk mail folder, please add npdes.pca@state.mn.us to your address book now. If you have access to e-Services to submit Discharge Monitoring Reports as the online subscriber, and do not receive the email by mid-December, please notify the MPCA via email to npdes.pca@state.mn.us and a copy will be provided.

MPCA to begin review for 2017 wastewater operator awards

Soon the MPCA will review the compliance status of all eligible wastewater facilities to determine Wastewater Facility Operations Award recipients for 2017. There is no longer an application form to submit. You will be contacted in early 2018 if your facility has qualified for an award. The awards ceremony will be held during the annual Wastewater Operations Conference March 21-23, 2018 at the Marriott Northwest in Brooklyn Park.  Please contact your assigned compliance staff, or Kaitlin Jamieson (kaitlin.jamieson@state.mn.us or 651-757-2306) with any questions.

State grants rolling out for wastewater projects

The Minnesota Public Facilities Authority (PFA) recently approved several grants for wastewater projects around the state, including:

  • More than $3.5 million in grants for wastewater system improvements in Grove City. The Meeker County community will use the funding to demolish an existing facility and to build a three-cell stabilization pond system and force main. The PFA awarded the project a $3.13 million grant from the Water Infrastructure Fund and a $380,485 grant from the Point Source Implementation Grant Program. The project also received a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development loan of $4.13 million and grant of $1.95 million.
  • The city of Echo will receive more than $4 million in grants and loans from the PFA and the USDA for infrastructure improvements. The city of 278 people in Yellow Medicine County will use the funding to replace underground water and sewer pipes in the community.
  • A $4.2 million grant to help Winsted pay for improvements to its wastewater treatment plant. The funding from the PFA’s Point Source Implementation Grant Program will help the city finance upgrades that reduce the discharge of phosphorus from the plant. Winsted, a city of about 2,400 people in McLeod County, also will borrow about $3.9 million for the project. \
  • A $16.7 million loan for upgrades to the wastewater treatment plant in St. Cloud. The funding will help the city pay for $24.3 million in water treatment improvements that will reduce phosphorus discharges. Earlier this year, the PFA awarded St. Cloud a $6.6 million grant for the project. Local entities are contributing another $1 million. The latest round of funding came from the PFA’s Clean Water Revolving Fund. The 20-year, 1.095 percent interest loan will save St. Cloud taxpayers $2.8 million compared with a conventional loan over the same period.

    The Minnesota Public Facilities Authority provides financing and technical assistance to help communities build and maintain infrastructure that protects public health and the environment and promotes economic growth. Since inception in 1987, the PFA has financed $4.5 billion in public infrastructure projects in communities throughout Minnesota.

Workshop Dec. 6: Identifying ways to save energy and costs at WWTPs

GreenStep Cities

GreenStep Cities, in collaboration with the Minnesota Department of Commerce, is hosting a workshop about benchmarking wastewater treatment plants to understand energy use. The workshop will be held at the St. Cloud wastewater treatment plant on Dec. 6 from 8:45 – 11 a.m. The workshop will include presentations by the Minnesota Technical Assistance Program (MnTAP), Weidt Group, City of St. Cloud, and City of New Prague to highlight how benchmarking can be used to identify significant energy- and cost-saving opportunities at Minnesota wastewater plants.

After the workshop, there will also be an opportunity to tour the St. Cloud treatment plant and see some of the innovative energy efficiency measures and renewable energy systems the facility has implemented. Register here to attend in person or via webinar.

GreenStep Cities is program to help cities achieve their sustainability goals through implementation of 28 best practices. These practices are tailored to all Minnesota cities, focus on cost savings and energy use reduction, and encourage innovation.

Dec. 12-14: Wastewater Treatment Technology Seminar

The Wastewater Treatment Technology Seminar will be held Dec. 12–14, at the Embassy Suites in St. Paul. This seminar is recommended for entry-level operators or as a review for experienced operators. The seminar covers wastewater terminology, treatment types, phases, wastewater math, sampling, reporting and safety. Exams will be offered on the last day.  If you wish to take an exam, you must submit a separate exam application by Nov. 29. The seminar registration form and exam application are on the MPCA website. Contact Annaliza Heesch at 651-757-2591 or annaliza.heesch@state.mn.us with questions.  

Coming soon: 2018 wastewater training calendar

The 2018 MPCA Wastewater Training Calendar will be posted on the MPCA Wastewater Training website in December: www.pca.state.mn.us/water/training-wastewater-operators.

March 19-21: Collection System Conference

The MPCA will hold the 44th annual Collection System Conference March 19-21, 2018 at the Marriott Northwest in Brooklyn Park (7025 Northland Drive North, Brooklyn Park, Minn.).

  • Highlights include:
  • SA and SB exam refresher
  • SC and SD exam refresher
  • Certification examinations
  • Vendor and professional organization displays

Other topics include inspection techniques and tools, pipe and manhole rehab, asset management, pumps and lift station tour, electrical generation and controls, infiltration and inflow, condition assessment, odor control and biofilters, working alongside your coworkers, and much more. The conference brochure and registration packet will be available on the MPCA Wastewater Training webpage in January 2018. Exam refreshers require pre-registration (see the registration page of the brochure for details). For more information, contact Annaliza Heesch at 651-757-2591 or annaliza.heesch@state.mn.us.

March 21-23: Wastewater Operations Conference

The MPCA will hold the 81st annual Wastewater Operations Conference March 21-23, 2018 at the Marriott Northwest in Brooklyn Park (7025 Northland Drive North, Brooklyn Park, Minn.).

Highlights include:

  • A & B exam refresher
  • C & D exam refresher
  • Type IV (biosolids) refresher
  • Certification examinations
  • Vendor and professional organization displays
  • Facility Operational Awards ceremony

Other topics include new plant and/upgrades, aging infrastructure/asset management, flooding challenges and response, emerging issues, facility optimization, industrial wastewater and pretreatment, strategies for optimizing operations, stabilization ponds, safety, LSTS new policies and procedures, and much more. The conference brochure and registration packet will be available on the MPCA Wastewater Training webpage in January 2018. Exam refreshers require pre-registration (see the registration page of the brochure for details). For more information, contact Annaliza Heesch at 651-757-2591 or annaliza.heesch@state.mn.us.  

Whom to call with questions on wastewater/collection system certifications and exams

For all collection system and wastewater operators, the Certification Program Administrator is Tracy Finch. Contact her at tracy.finch@state.mn.us or 651-757-2103 with any certification or exam questions.

Quick tip for operators renewing their certifications

Here’s a quick tip when renewing your collection system or wastewater operator license: If you attended training that was not sponsored by the MPCA, you must submit proof of attendance and a copy of the schedule or program for contact hour determination.

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