On Point for December 2018: Status of watershed reviews, pond general permit issued

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On Point - News and updates for wastewater discharge permit holders

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MPCA issues PolyMet air and water permits

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) recently issued the final air and water permits for PolyMet’s proposed NorthMet project in northeastern Minnesota.

“Issuing these permits comes after a years-long process that saw the most thorough environmental review any construction project has ever had in Minnesota,” MPCA Commissioner John Linc Stine said. “We are confident the requirements in these permits will protect the environment and human health over the long term.”

The MPCA developed draft permits and released them for public comment on Jan. 31, 2018. During the time the draft permits were open for public comments (through Mar. 16, 2018), the MPCA received more than 700 comments. After carefully evaluating the comments and revising the permits based on those comments, the revised draft permits were sent to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which has federal oversight on the air and water permits. The EPA had no comments during the period allotted, and MPCA Commissioner John Linc Stine signed the final permits effective Dec. 20, 2018.

The permits MPCA issued include the combined federal/state permits for water discharge and air emissions. The water permit is the key mechanism for protecting water quality. The agency also issued the Clean Water Act Section 401 certification, which focuses on wetland protections.

Stine said the permits contain numerous safeguards to assure they will fulfill their purpose. For example, the water permit requires the construction of advanced water treatment technology to meet permit limits, the installation of a seepage capture system around the perimeter of the existing tailings basin, and a robust monitoring system and annual performance evaluations. The air permit includes specific emission limits — addressing both ore processing and transport from the mine site to the processing plant — and rigorous daily, weekly, and monthly monitoring and recordkeeping requirements.

The permits can be found on the agency's PolyMet’s NorthMet mining project webpage.

Now posted: Status of phosphorus reviews – and limits – for wastewater dischargers

Map showing status of watershed phosphorus reviews as of December 2018

The MPCA recently posted an online tool that provides the status of watershed reviews for phosphorus in waters: www.pca.state.mn.us/water/phosphorus-wastewater. These reviews include phosphorus limits for some municipal and industrial wastewater treatment facilities (WWTFs). The MPCA has been working on this online tool since holding listening sessions in 2016, when several permit holders said they wanted an easy way to know the status of their reviews.

The reviews are part of Minnesota’s implementation of River Eutrophication Standards (RES) adopted in 2015.The purpose of the river standards is to protect aquatic life from the negative impacts of excess suspended algae in rivers and streams. Since adoption of the standards, the MPCA has been completing phosphorus reviews on a watershed basis to determine what, if any, total phosphorus limits need to be established for National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System/State Disposal System (NPDES/SDS) permit holders. This watershed-based approach ensures that phosphorus limits are protective of aquatic life. It also helps to ensure that point sources are required to reduce only their fair share of phosphorus and still meet Minnesota’s water quality goals.

Please note that phosphorus limits included in the watershed reviews are not final until included in a new or reissued NPDES/SDS permit.

The MPCA will update this online tool as it completes watershed reviews. If the watershed status is marked “complete” on the webpage, then you can request a copy of the review by sending an email to the MPCA Data Desk (datadesk.mpca@state.mn.us) with the watershed name and term “phosphorus review” included in the message title.

For more information about watershed reviews and/or phosphorus limits, please contact Steve Weiss of the MPCA at steven.weiss@state.mn.us or 651-757-2814.

MPCA issues wastewater pond general permit

Wastewater treatment ponds at Shafer, MN

The MPCA has final issued the NPDES/SDS Wastewater Pond General Permit No. MNG585000. The permit was issued Dec. 1, 2018, for a term of five years. This general permit authorizes surface water discharges from controlled discharge wastewater pond facilities.

The MPCA is preparing Notices of Coverage (NOCs) for the first batch of pond facilities. The agency will issue the first batch of NOCs at the end of December and they will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2019. A list of all pond facilities included in the first batch can be found on the MPCA website: https://www.pca.state.mn.us/sites/default/files/wq-wwprm9-27a.pdf.

If your pond facility is not included in the first batch of NOCs, your facility will remain covered under the expired Stabilization Pond General Permit No. MNG580000 or your facility’s individual permit until included in a future batch of pond facilities that will be issued NOCs under the new general permit or are issued individual permits.

For more information on the new general permit and the batch process of issuing NOCs, see the Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) fact sheet on the MPCA website: www.pca.state.mn.us/sites/default/files/wq-wwprm1-33.pdf 

Thank you very much for your patience during this general permit reissuance period. If you have any questions regarding the permit or your coverage, please call Stephanie Lyons at 218-302-6643, Holly Kvittem at 218-846-8111 or send an email to generalpondpermit.pca@state.mn.us

Sent: Draft Annual Compliance Summary

The MPCA emailed the Annual Compliance Summary to online subscribers (DMR signatories) for NPDES/SDS permits between Nov. 26 and Dec. 3rd via the NPDES email address: npdes.pca@state.mn.us.  If your online subscriber has not received the report, check your junk mail folder first and then send an email to npdes.pca@state.mn.us requesting a copy of your Draft Annual Compliance Summary. There may have been issues with the email on file and these can be updated via the same NPDES email address.

This draft report provides permittees the opportunity to review the information in the MPCA database regarding their NPDES/SDS permit for the period of Oct. 1, 2017 through Sept. 30, 2018. They can then send corrections to the MPCA via the npdes.pca@state.mn.us email address. If done promptly, the updates should be reflected in the final version of the report that will be sent to both the online subscriber and the responsible official and/or owners for the facility in February or March 2019.

In addition to maintaining good data, the updates and corrections help make sure MPCA staff have correct information as they review facilities for the Operational Awards presented at the MPCA Annual Wastewater Operation Conference in March 2019.

Reminder: Annual biosolids report due to MPCA and EPA

For municipal facilities with a design flow rate equal to or greater than 1 million gallons per day, municipal facilities that serve 10,000 people or more, and other facilities required to report (also known as “Class I sludge management facilities”) please see the following. (This does not apply to industrial by-product land application facilities.)

Facilities that fall into the above category will need to submit an annual biosolids report to the MPCA by Dec. 31, 2018, and to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by Feb. 19, 2019. The report to the EPA will be electronic. Both of these reports will be based on the cropping year.

For questions with the federal report, contact EPA’s help desk: NPDESeReporting@epa.gov or 1-877-227-8965. Additional information can be found at: www.epa.gov/compliance/npdes-ereporting .

All municipal facilities in Minnesota that manage biosolids are required to submit a biosolids annual report by Dec. 31, 2018. Please note that even if you didn’t land apply during the 2018 cropping year, a biosolids annual report still needs to be submitted.

Contact Sherry Bock of the MPCA at 218-316-3882 or sheryl.bock@state.mn.us with any questions.

Compliance tip: Be sure to document instrument calibration

NPDES/SDS permits require instruments used for in-house monitoring, such as for pH and TRC, to be calibrated routinely. They also require permit holders to maintain records documenting the calibration. MPCA staff often see calibration records that do not contain adequate documentation. Below are common examples of missing information:

  • Date, time, and name of person performing analysis
  • Measured result of pH buffer verification
  • Barometric pressure, temp, and mg/L for dissolved oxygen calibration
  • TRC duplicate result

MPCA staff have developed calibration templates that are available for permittees. Please contact MPCA compliance staff if you would like a copy of the calibration templates as they are not on the MPCA’s website.

eDMR tip: How to cancel sample values in progress


If you need to cancel sample values that are in progress, or otherwise start over on your DMR, please do the following:

  • To start over, click "My Workspace Tab" under "My Services in Progress"
  • Then click the red X
  • Make sure you are cancelling the DMR and not your facility!

See other tips on the MPCA Discharge Monitoring Reports webpage. For help with eDMRs and other compliance issues, you may also contact your MPCA compliance officer.

Upcoming MPCA events for operator training

Below are upcoming MPCA seminars for wastewater collection system operator training.

Recently posted: 2019 Wastewater Operator training calendar

The 2019 MPCA Wastewater Operator Training Calendar is now posted on the MPCA Wastewater Training website: www.pca.state.mn.us/water/wastewater-operators-training-and-certification

Collection System Conference set for March 25-27, 2019

The MPCA will hold the 45th annual Collection System Conference March 25-27, 2019 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 pipe and manhole rehab, asset management, pumps and lift station tour, SCADA & electrical generation, infiltration and inflow, condition assessment, FOG, cybersecurity, and much more. The conference brochure and registration packet will be available on the MPCA Wastewater Training webpage in January 2019. 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.

Type V Refresher seminar

The Type V (Spray Irrigation) Refresher will be held on March 26, 2019 at the Minneapolis Marriott Northwest (7025 Northland Drive, Brooklyn Park, Minn.) This course will be offered during the Collection System Annual Conference, but a separate registration will be required and will be available in January on the MPCA Wastewater Training website. Six Type V or wastewater contact hours will be offered for the course.

Wastewater Operations Conference set for March 27-29, 2019

The MPCA will hold the 82nd annual Wastewater Operations Conference March 27-29, 2019 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, new technologies, emergency response, facility optimization, industrial wastewater and pretreatment, emerging issues, activated sludge operations, stabilization ponds, safety, LSTS, and much more. The conference brochure and registration packet will be available on the MPCA Wastewater Training webpage in January 2019.  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

New supervisor for MPCA Certification and Training Unit

Nick Haig, supervisor of MPCA training and certification unit

The MPCA recently promoted Nick Haig to supervisor of the agency’s Certification and Training Unit. He previously served as a program administrator with the MPCA since 2012, where he worked to add value and relevance to Minnesota’s environmental professional certification programs. Haig is replacing Charlie Thompson, who retired this year after serving as the unit’s supervisor for more than 12 years. The Certification and Training Unit supports Minnesota’s certification programs in wastewater, SSTS, and solid waste. Feel free to reach Haig by phone at 651-757-2536 or by email at nick.haig@state.mn.us.

Help wanted: MPCA hiring Wastewater Training Specialist

The MPCA Certification and Training Unit is hiring a Wastewater Training Specialist at its St. Paul office. This position coordinates, develops, and implements certification training and continuing education for wastewater treatment facility and collection system operators. This position provides training to enhance regulatory compliance and operational technical assistance for agency-permitted wastewater treatment and collection facilities. Visit the job posting (ID 29062) for more details and to apply or share with interested candidates.  Applications accepted through Jan. 7, 2019.

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