On Point for March 2018: Regulatory certainty bill, water resuse report

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On Point - News and updates for wastewater discharge permit holders

March 2018

Resurfacing at the Legislature: Protection of Water Quality Investment Act

Providing communities with regulatory certainty is the focus of a bill (House file 2802 and Senate file 2807) introduced at the 2018 Legislature. The draft language reads: “To the extent allowable under federal law, for a municipality that constructs a publicly owned treatment works to comply with a new or modified effluent limitation, compliance with any new or modified effluent limitation adopted after construction begins that would require additional capital investment is required no sooner than 16 years after the date the facility begins operating.”

The 2017 Legislature passed a similar law, but it was left in limbo after an administrative law judge struck down the proposed rules for enacting the law (see the December 2017 edition of On Point for more information). The proposed 2018 legislation would address the the administrative law judge's concerns over potential conflicts with the federal Clean Water Act.

The 2016 regulatory certainty law for nutrients still stands. Under this law, municipalities are exempt from more restrictive phosphorus and nitrogen limits for up to 20 years if they use biological nutrient removal and accept a nitrogen limit before a nitrogen standard is adopted.

For more information about the status of either regulatory certainty law, contact Joel Peck, MPCA municipal liaison, at 651-757-2202 or joel.peck@state.mn.us.

Report: Time to get serious about water re-use

Stormwater used for irrigation in Carver, MN

Historically a water-rich state, Minnesota is now starting to realize there are limits to its water supplies, according to a recent report. Three out of four Minnesotans get their drinking water from groundwater, and use of groundwater is increasing in Minnesota. In fact, its use has increased by 35% over the last 25 years. Meanwhile, the state is experiencing changes in weather patterns, increases in population, greater demand for irrigation, and growth in industries that need high water input. Depletion of groundwater reserves in some areas has put the spotlight on the need for more efficient water use.

For all these reasons, reusing water is gaining interest. Yet there is no comprehensive state guidance or policy on water reuse. To provide that guidance, the 2015 Minnesota Legislature directed the Minnesota Dept. of Health to study the issue and develop recommendations. The health department then convened a work group of several state agencies and the University of Minnesota Water Resources Center. The group recently released its report, Advancing Safe and Sustainable Water Reuse in Minnesota.”

The work group defined reuse as: The capture and use of stormwater, wastewater and subsurface water to meet water demands for intentional and beneficial uses.

The group collected information:

  • On water reuse in Minnesota, other states and other nations
  • On ways to manage health risks posed by water reuse
  • Through stakeholder surveys and meetings

In its report, the group makes several recommendations for Minnesota to pursue, including:

  • Expanding membership in the work group
  • Continuing research
  • Establishing a web-based hub of information
  • Developing a system or determining if regulations and guidance are needed
  • Developing water quality criteria for a variety of reuse systems
  • Resolving unique issues related to gray water reuse
  • Providing education and training

For more information about the water reuse work group, visit the Minnesota Dept. of Health website.

Photo above: Stormwater reused for landscape irrigation in Carver, Minn.

No final version of Annual Compliance Summary this year due to database corrections

The MPCA thanks all permit holders who reviewed the Annual Compliance Summary, sometimes called the “big report,” for their facility and made changes or contacted the agency about corrections or issues in the report.  The MPCA received the corrections and is finishing the updates. Some of the errors in the report turned out to be errors in the MPCA database or require some data cleanup. Due to the number of these issues and the length of time it will take to fix, the MPCA is not sending out a final version of the report this spring as planned. Instead, the agency will focus on correcting issues and cleaning up data for next year’s report. 

Again, thank you for your patience and assistance as the agency works through this new database process for creating and sending the Annual Compliance Summary.

We heard you and what we’re doing: MPCA updates wastewater webpages

During listening sessions around the state in 2016 and 2017, the MPCA heard complaints from permit holders about the difficulty in navigating the agency’s website. A team of MPCA staff have worked over several months to revamp the webpages, and recently launched the newly redesigned wastewater webpages.  The goal of the overhaul is to provide wastewater operators, cities, counties and consultants with an easier way to find information about:

  • Permits
  • Engineering and technical guidance
  • Reporting and compliance
  • Pretreatment, engineering and technical information

Note: You may need to update your browser bookmarks.

If you have questions about the changes or having trouble finding information, please contact Theresa Gaffey in the communications department at 651-757-2375 or theresa.gaffey@state.mn.us.

eDMR tip: Watch those decimal points

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


Water a dominant theme in MPCA Strategic Plan

Water was a dominant theme when the MPCA recently refreshed its Strategic Plan for the next five years. The agency selected 16 goals that cover air, water, land, cross agency, and excellence. The water goals focus on:

  • Reducing chloride (salt) entering lakes, streams and groundwater
  • Reducing nutrient pollution of lakes and stream through targeted strategies with local partners
  • Reducing pollutants in wastewater and maximizing investments in public infrastructure

As part of the refresh, the agency gathered input from staff and external stakeholders. Some of the key themes shared by external stakeholders and staff included better communication and efficiency.

Based on input from external and internal stakeholders, senior leadership selected a targeted set of goals where the agency can make a difference in the next five years. In addition to water-related goals, they include increased diversity in the agency’s work force, acceleration of data availability online, and improving air quality in population centers. The agency is also focusing on reducing permitting backlogs in air and nutrient pollution in watersheds.

Legislative proposal: Reduce training requirements for biosolids applications

Biosolids from St. Cloud being transferred to a field applicator

This legislative session, the MPCA is seeking minor changes in state regulations that would save time and money for public and private organizations. Among the proposed changes is a reduction in training for applying biosolids to land.

Current Minnesota rules require that workers who apply sewage sludge and industrial byproducts to land complete 9 hours of training every 3 years. The training covers the relevant laws and best practices for protecting human health and the environment.

These training requirements were set 35 years ago, when land application of wastewater biosolids was new, and no online resources or in-field mentorship existed. Today with some 650 certified operators, peer mentoring is easily accessible. In addition, the MPCA offers online manuals, field guides, and other resources. With these educational opportunities available, the MPCA believes that 6 hours of in-person training is sufficient.

The MPCA proposal would reduce required training from 9 to 6 hours every 3 years. This would cut costs for both trainers and operators, because the current training is split over 2 days, requiring overnight stays for participants. The MPCA would save $1,048 per year in lodging and meal costs for trainers while cities and businesses sending staff to be trained would save an estimated $12,000 per year in lodging and meal costs.

See the “Policy proposals: Small changes, big impacts” fact sheet on the MPCA website.

Two southern Minnesota cities receive funding for wastewater projects

Two southern Minnesota cities recently received approval for grants and loans from the Minnesota Public Facilities Authority (PFA) for projects that will improve wastewater facilities:

  • Blue Earth, which is planning improvements to its wastewater treatment plant, received a $7.69 million low-interest loan from the PFA’s Clean Water Revolving Fund. The 20-year, 1.275% loan will save the city $1.28 million compared with what it would have paid for a conventional loan of the same amount.
  • Kasson will receive $3.36 million in financing for improving its wastewater treatment plant to reduce phosphorus discharge and to connect neighboring Mantorville to its system. Project funding includes a $489,494 grant from the Point Source Implementation Program and a $2.88 million loan from the Clean Water Revolving Fund. The 20-year, 1.095 percent loan will save the city $474,964 compared with what it would have paid for a conventional loan of the same amount. In addition, Mantorville will pay Kasson an $819,000 access fee, which will be applied to the project cost.

Read more on the PFA website

In the news and online: Sewage spills into stadium