On Point for April 2018: Success story, awards, flooding prep

Having trouble reading this message? View it as a webpage.

On Point - News and updates for wastewater discharge permit holders

April 2018

Success story: City of Morgan replacing virtually all water infrastructure

City of Morgan, MN, wastewater pond system 2017

The city of Morgan in Redwood County is undertaking a $20.5 million water infrastructure project. Last year, it replaced its old and inefficient mechanical plant for wastewater treatment with a three-cell wastewater stabilization pond treatment facility. The ponds have been in operation since November 2017. Now the city is getting ready to replace 100% of its sanitary sewer lines and 95% of its water mains.

U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Rural Development grants are helping fund the project, along with a loan that the city will pay off through gradual increases in user rates.

This city of 900 people experiences severe inflow and infiltration problems that the new infrastructure should significantly reduce. It decided on a pond system because it was more cost-effective than trying to rehabilitate its mechanical plant. The plant was built in 1954 and last upgraded in 1989. The 40-acre pond system northwest of town will discharge treated wastewater to Redwood County Ditch 109 in spring and/or fall each year. The city designed the project to avoid discharging from June 1 through Sept. 30 of each year. Morgan also built a lift station and force main to carry wastewater to the new facility.

“The residents know that we needed to do something and most are on board. The council and Bolton & Menk were involved in making the necessary decisions,” said Dwane Jemmings, wastewater operator for Morgan.

Paul Kimman, a municipal wastewater supervisor with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), said, “This is a huge undertaking for a small town. Hats off to Morgan for tackling such a big project, and working to resolve their inflow and infiltrations issues that resulted in many wastewater releases during wet weather.”

Attendance increases at MPCA annual wastewater conferences

The MPCA hosted the 44th annual Collection Systems Conference and the 81st annual Wastewater Operations Conference the week of March 19-23 at the Marriott Northwest in Brooklyn Park.  A broad spectrum of informative and timely topics was on the agenda this year, enabling wastewater professionals to hone their skills, gain educational hours, and optimize their systems and facilities. 

More than 900 people attended one or both conferences, an attendance increase of 8% from last year for the Collection Systems Conference and 11% for the Wastewater Operations Conference.  These are the highest attendance numbers since 2011 for the two conferences.  The Vendor and Professional Organization Displays Exhibition featured 55 exhibits, up 16% from last year. Thank you to the attendees, the planning committee, developers, speakers, exhibitors, and all others whose contributions helped make the conferences a success.

For more information about Operator Training and Certification, please visit this MPCA website page: www.pca.state.mn.us/water/wastewater-operators-training-and-certification. Or go to www.pca.state.mn.us and search for “mpca wastewater training.”

MPCA recognizes wastewater facilities for operational excellence

Asst. MPCA Commissioner Shannon Lotthammer presenting wastewater award to city of Bemidji

The MPCA recently recognized 295 Minnesota wastewater treatment facilities for maintaining outstanding permit compliance from October 2016 through September 2017.

Shannon Lotthammer, assistant MPCA commissioner of water policy, presented the certificates and praised award recipients for their persistent work and dedication to protecting water quality. (Photo at right is Lotthammer with a representative from the city of Bemidji.)

To be eligible for this recognition, facilities were required to submit all reports to the MPCA correctly and on time; demonstrate consistent compliance through monitoring, operations, and maintenance; and employ staff certified by the MPCA in wastewater operations. 

Awards were presented at the 81st Annual Wastewater Operations Conference in Brooklyn Park. A complete list of winners is available on the Agency's Wastewater webpage. Photos of award recipients who picked up their awards in person are available on the MPCA's Flickr page. (Cathy  Rofshus, public information officer with the MPCA, is also posting the photos on Twitter at https://twitter.com/CatMPCA.) Awards that were not accepted in person were mailed to the permit holder.

The MPCA also issued a press release on the awards that cities may customize for their local media.

Congratulations to all recipients!

eDMR tip: Data is public so take steps to ensure accuracy


In March 2016, the MPCA launched the wastewater data browser tool on its website. The data reported in discharge monitoring reports (DMR) is the source for the data in the tool. Because DMR data reported to the MPCA is made available to the public, it is important to ensure that the data reported is accurate. Below are a few items to consider to ensure that consistently accurate data is reported to the MPCA.

  • Take time to perform quality assurance checks. For example, have multiple sets of eyes review DMR data prior to submittal.
  • Data entry and transcribing. For example, be mindful of decimal placement and significant figures.
  • Data calculations. For example, laboratory results and DMRs units may not always be the same. Ensure data is reported in the units required by the permit.

If you discover inaccurate data has been reported, please perform a DMR amendment.

If you have questions or need help, please contact your MPCA compliance and enforcement officer or visit the MPCA DMR webpage.

Agency names new regional supervisor for municipal wastewater

Paul Kimman

The MPCA has promoted Paul Kimman to southeast-southwest regional supervisor for municipal wastewater. Theresa Haugen, now supervisor of industrial water quality permits, previously held this position.

Kimman, in the photo at right, holds a degree in environmental studies with a minor in biology from Bemidji State University in Minnesota. He has been with the MPCA for a little more than 11 years. Kimman started his career in the solid waste and hazardous waste programs, and then spent the last 4 years in compliance and enforcement for the wastewater point source program. He is known for his personal communications skills, prompt responsiveness and hard work ethic.

Kimman looks forward to working with municipalities, NPDES staff, and external stakeholders on municipal wastewater issues in the southeast and southwest regions of the state. He works out of the Marshall office, and can be reached at 507-476-4270 or paul.kimman@state.mn.us.

State grants help cities with infrastructure projects

The Minnesota Dept. of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) recently awarded the following grants for infrastructure projects in greater Minnesota:

  • The city of North Mankato received $394,209 to expand the North Port Industrial Park. Utility extensions will provide storm sewer, sanitary sewer and water services for an additional 50 acres of speculative industrial park space owned by the North Mankato Port Authority.
  • The city of Otsego received $704,724 to assist with the extension of water and sewer service to create a 77-acre industrial park and facilitate a business expansion.
  • The city of Thief River Falls was awarded $1.6 million for public infrastructure necessary to expand Digi-Key Corp. The expansion includes a 700,000-square-foot building. This project supports utility extensions, roads and other public improvements related to the expansion.

Under this program, DEED awards grants for 50% of the cost of public infrastructure that supports economic development outside the seven-county Twin Cities metro area. Eligible public infrastructure includes wastewater collection and treatment, drinking water, storm sewers, utility extensions and streets. For details, visit the DEED website: Greater Minnesota Business Development Public Infrastructure Grant Program.

Spring finally arrives, and with it comes flooding preparation

Impact of heavy rains and flooding on wastewater systems

Spring is known as flood season for many wastewater treatment facilities. Make sure you are prepared by having spare pumps, generators, sand bags, and other equipment on hand, along with spare sample bottles 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.

Note on sample bottles

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. 

Is it an overflow or a bypass? A refresher on terms

  • Release: A release is any overflow or spill of wastewater or materials to the environment.
  • Sanitary sewer overflow (SSO): A release occurring from a sanitary sewer collection.
  • Bypass: A bypass is the intentional diversion of a waste stream from any portion of your treatment facility. Examples of bypasses include diverting the flow of wastewater around a clarifier or de-chlorination system. Bypass wastewater must enter waters of the state from outfalls specially authorized by the facility’s permit and cannot, by law, cause an effluent limit exceedance.

If you must bypass/release

If a bypass or release is the only alternative, remember that you are obligated to:

  • Immediately contact the Minnesota Duty Officer at 800-422-0798 or 651-649-5451. If you need assistance or advice from the MPCA, you can inform the Minnesota Duty Officer or contact the MPCA directly. WWTF staff is often required to perform many tasks upon discovery of a release so it may be useful to designate a person to make a preliminary Duty Officer notification for the bypass/release. A final notification, with supplemental information, could then be made to the Duty Officer once all bypass/release details are obtained.
  • Discontinue the bypass/release as soon as possible. If a bypass/release is expected to last for more than a day or two, contact your MPCA representative to keep them informed of your status and to discuss sampling requirements.
  • Recover all substances and materials. In a flood situation this may not be possible, but a reasonable effort should be made to recover substances and materials to minimize human health and environmental impacts.
  • Collect representative sample(s) of the bypass/release. WWTFs should have sampling kits available to perform sampling requirements.

 Resources on flooding preparation and response

Wastewater discharge sign 2017

By foot and by boat, volunteers take to the water to collect valuable data

 Sean Connaughty, Lake Hiawatha citizen monitor and cleanup coordinator

Once the weather warms up, hundreds of volunteers across Minnesota will head out to their lake or stream to measure its clarity. By collecting data for the MPCA, these volunteers provide valuable information for protecting or restoring their waters.

The agency uses the data to help determine if lakes and streams are meeting water quality standards designed to protect aquatic life and recreation like fish and swimming. If so, these waters are candidates for protective strategies. If not, then studies may follow to determine the pollutants, sources of those pollutants, and ways to reduce them.

Through the Citizen Monitoring Program, volunteers do a simple water clarity test in their favorite body of water twice a month during the summer. Lake monitors boat or paddle to a designated spot to check the clarity, while stream monitors may walk, bike or drive to the water or a bridge over it.

More than 1,300 citizen monitors gather data for the MPCA, but more are needed to reach the 69,000 miles of rivers and more than 12,000 lakes in the state. The MPCA provides equipment and training, and no experience is needed. For some waters, citizen data is the only data available.

Many volunteers go beyond collecting data:

  • In Hennepin County in the Twin Cities area, Sean Connaughty (photo above) coordinates an annual cleanup of Lake Hiawatha.  Over the past three years, he and others have logged 879 hours of volunteer time removing 4,500 pounds of trash from the lake. 
  • For Lake Washington in Le Sueur County in southern Minnesota, Pam Olson initiated a project in an upstream wetland to slow the movement of water during rain events and let sediments settle out before the water flows into the lake.
  • In Anoka County in the Twin Cities area, Wayne LeBlanc helped establish a no-wake zone surrounding a shallow sensitive area on Peltier Lake.
  • Richard Heimkes in Polk County in west-central Minnesota has long advocated for Gilchrist Lake and other waters in Minnesota through work with land management boards.

To join this volunteer effort, use the MPCA’s interactive map to find out if your favorite lake or stream needs monitoring: www.pca.state.mn.us/water/find-site-and-sign. To learn more and sign up, visit the Citizen Water Monitoring Program webpage at www.pca.state.mn.us/water/citizen-water-monitoring, or call 651-296-6300 (Twin Cities) or 1-800-657-3864 (Greater Minnesota).

In the news and online: Wild rice, ‘poop train,’ Polymet and more