On Point for July 2018: Bonding bill passes, state funding round now open

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On Point - News and updates for wastewater discharge permit holders

July 2018

Bonding bill passes but with controversial measure

The 2018 Minnesota Legislature passed and Gov. Mark Dayton signed a $1.46 billon bonding bill that included $133 million for water infrastructure. The water portion fell short of the $167 million recommended by the governor, Legislative Water Commission and Public Facilities Authority.

The bonding package includes $98 million from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund to pay for state debt service. This fund usually funds research and restoration projects. This move faced criticism from several entities that said it violated state law and bypassed the commission that recommends how to spend the fund.

Dayton removed only one provision from the bonding bill using his line-item veto power: $1 million for analyzing Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) water regulations, which Dayton called "an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy."


Ready for construction in 2019? Apply now for funding

The Minnesota Public Facilities Authority (PFA) is accepting applications through July 31 for the Point Source Implementation Grant Program for grant awards in Fiscal Year 2019. All eligible projects that expect to be ready for construction by the summer of 2019 are encouraged to apply.

The Point Source Implementation Grant Program (Minnesota Statutes, Section 446A.073 as amended) provides 80% grants up to $7 million to governmental units to assist with the cost of water infrastructure projects.

This program is jointly administered by the PFA and MPCA. Eligible projects must be ranked on the MPCA’s 2019 Project Priority List. Eligible drinking water treatment projects must also be listed on the Minnesota Department of Health’s Drinking Water Revolving Fund 2019 Project Priority List.

Please refer to the Point Source Implementation Grant  application forms for a description of the funding process and program requirements. Grant application forms are available on the PFA website at mn.gov/pfa. Completed applications must be postmarked or sent via e-mail no later than July 31.

Questions about project eligibility and MPCA certification requirements should be directed to Bill Dunn at the MPCA at 651-757-2324 or. For questions regarding funding and the application process, contact the appropriate PFA loan officer.

Crow River watershed: Community reps, MPCA staff talk permits, trading and other topics.

MPCA, permit holders talk wastewater topics in Delano

MPCA wastewater staff met with permit holders in the Crow River watershed May 29 at Delano to talk about the impact of new standards, water quality trading and other topics. After MPCA presentations with a question and answer session, there was time for permittees and MPCA staff to meet in small groups to discuss specific issues or questions. All sides seem to agree that the meeting was helpful and productive.

“This meeting allowed us to provide advanced notice of new limits to permit holders. We were able to provide a more detailed explanation of water quality in the Crow River watershed and how it will improve in the coming years. This was a great opportunity to connect directly with permittees and listen to their concerns,” said Steve Weiss, supervisor of the MPCA effluent limits unit.

About 30 community representatives attended, with 16 responding to a follow-up survey:

  • 63% of participants were wastewater plant managers or operators
  • 25% were consultants
  • 12% were city officials

When asked how clear the information presented was at the meeting, the following said it was “very clear” or “somewhat clear” on the following topics:

  • Phosphorus limit approach: 87.6%
  • Water quality trading: 87.5%
  • Chloride limits and permitting approach: 81.3%
  • Legislative updates: 93.8%
  • Next steps: 93.8%

In addition, 75% agreed they had an opportunity to have their concerns heard.

 One respondent said, “Your staff was very helpful answering questions in the free time after the meeting and called me back a couple days later to give me more information on questions I had.”

If your community would like to host a regional meeting on municipal wastewater permit limits and issues, please contact Joel Peck, MPCA municipal liaison at 651-757-2202 or joel.peck@state.mn.us.

Success stories: Reducing water usage leads to increases in savings

MnTAP intern working at Fulton Brewing in Minneapolis

As the Minnesota Technical Assistance Program (MnTAP) explains on its website, companies pay twice for their water: once for the water provided to their facility and again for the amount of water they discharge to the local wastewater treatment facility. In the last year, MnTAP’s intern program has provided on-site technical assistance to several Minnesota businesses to reduce their water use and achieve cost and environmental savings.

One way to save money is by lowering a facility’s SAC charge, or sewer availability fee. In the Twin Cities metro area, the Metropolitan Council charges initial connection fees and fees when a business grows, to reflect increased demand on the wastewater system. As the two success stories below show, saving water leads to other savings.

Fulton Brewing

Fulton Brewing in Minneapolis sought to reduce water use and effluent strength to lower its SAC charges. They discovered that the dead yeast, hops, and other fermentation waste from its brew house accounted for two-thirds of the total TSS and COD in its effluent. Collecting and dewatering this stream would capture 115,000 lbs of solids that could be added to spent grain animal feed, and save $9,200 per year. The MnTAP intern also found ways to save 410,000 gallons of water per year by installing flat jet nozzles in the kettle, recycling rinse water on the canning line, and recirculating water from the vacuum pump on the bottling line. 

WEG Electric Machinery, Inc.

WEG Electric Machinery in Minneapolis was using about 1.8 million gallons of water per year to keep motors cool during testing and to cool welders. The business recognized the inefficiency in single pass cooling water, and sought a cost-effective, sustainable solution. Air-cooled heat exchangers were identified as an alternative for motor testing, and water recirculation loops for spot welder and machine enclosure cooling. WEG is gradually implementing these and other changes, which will eliminate nearly all process water use on site.

Increasing efficiency

As stated in its 2017 environmental benefits report, MnTAP’s activities in 2017 resulted in nearly 60 million gallons of industrial water efficiency.

If your facility or customers are interested in learning more about how to reduce wastewater discharge, MnTAP can help:

  • Site visits:  A MnTAP staff member can visit your facility to gain a better understanding of your processes and identify opportunities for improving efficiency and reducing waste.
  • Intern program:  A summer intern can make suggestions that improve efficiency, save money, reduce waste, or decrease regulatory compliance burden. 
  • Phone assistance: MnTAP’s staff of experts are able to quickly provide answers and referrals over the phone and also can identify when additional assistance (site visits, interns, etc.) may be necessary.
  • Publications and resources: Visit the MnTAP website for helpful publications and information on how to reduce waste.

eDMR tip: Use Wastewater Data Browser to access DMR records


The MPCA receives many requests for monthly DMR records. Wastewater staff created an online application called the Wastewater Data Browser to provide better public access to DMR records. The application includes monthly reported values, limits and monitoring requirements, station locations, and facility characteristics.

You can find the application on the MPCA DMR website. The application has more than 5 million data points so it has numerous filters to refine data. Once you select your data of interest, you can view it on a line chart, view it as a list, or download the results to a spreadsheet.

Because the Data Browser contains all monthly DMR results it is easier to review reported values over time. Instead of opening individual monthly files, you can now download all the results for a time period to see how reported values compared to a permit limit. This is useful for reviewing data over a period of interest like a previous permit cycle. The application provides access to the same monthly DMR data that MPCA staff use for permitting decisions. Permitting staff also use daily sample values, which are not currently online but available by request.

The front page of the application also has a map so you can see facilities monitoring for any parameter in the database. The data exports also have coordinates for GIS users.

The MPCA updates the Data Browser quarterly so data are not immediately available after submittals. If you have questions or comments about the application, please contact the MPCA Data Desk at datadesk.mpca@state.mn.us. For more information about how the data are collected and submitted, see the online Community Guide to Finding Data.

In the news and online: U of M study on chloride in waters