On Point for February 2019: Governor proposes chloride reduction program

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On Point - News and updates for wastewater discharge permit holders

February 2019

In governor’s budget: Statewide program to help communities reduce chloride in waters

Salt on roads and in water softeners leads to chloride in lakes, streams and groundwater

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz is proposing a statewide Chloride Reduction Program to help communities reduce chloride that ends up in water resources. To pay for the program, he included $600,000 from the Clean Water Fund, derived from the Legacy Amendment sales tax, in his budget recommendations announced this week.

Chloride is a permanent pollutant that is toxic to aquatic life and does not break down or change over time. The chloride water quality standard designed to protect aquatic life is 230 mg/liter (equivalent to 1 teaspoon in 5 gallons of water). Once chloride enters lakes, streams, wetlands and groundwater, it is extremely expensive to remove it. Chloride levels are continuing to increase in Minnesota’s water resources and the only way to address this pollutant is to reduce it at the source. The primary sources of chloride causing water quality problems are deicing salt used in winter and salt used for water softening systems.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) would administer the program, taking a two-prong approach:

  • Reducing road salt runoff by training snow removal and deicing services to reduce their salt use. Called Smart Salt Training, this pilot program was funded by a federal grant that expires in 2020, and was offered only in the Twin Cities metro area. The state program would continue it for 2 years and expand it statewide.
  • Reducing chloride in wastewater discharges through grants to communities to help residents upgrade their water softeners to low-salt use systems, or if the communities centrally soften their water, to help with removing unnecessary water softeners. More than 100 communities in Minnesota have elevated chloride in their wastewater discharge, in large part due to water softening. Because most wastewater treatment plants are not designed to remove chloride, and retrofitting such plants with chloride treatment would be prohibitively expensive, the state needs creative approaches to address these salty discharge problems.

The final budget will be decided by the 2019 Minnesota Legislature.

Other MPCA priorities in the governor’s budget:

  • Investigate nitrate pollution in the karst region
  • Continue cleanup of Lake Superior headwaters
  • Fund statewide outreach on climate and environmental policy
  • Expand Minnesota’s electric-vehicle charging network
  • Clean up Freeway Landfill and Dump in the metro area
  • Expand Minnesota markets for recyclables
  • Divert food waste from landfills 

For more information:

MPCA continues to work on variances for chloride limits

Chloride Work Group recommendation

Permit holders have asked the MPCA for an update on the status of variances for chloride limits. The agency continues to work on processing variance applications and developing variance documents and implementation procedures that will meet:

  • Federal and state requirements
  • The needs of cities
  • Support of aquatic life in Minnesota streams

In short, it’s been a difficult process.

At this time, the MPCA is working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to legally document support for a variance term longer than 5 years. Different areas of the MPCA are working to make variances meaningful:

  • Staff in water quality standards are working on meeting the federal requirements for justifying and granting the variance
  • Permitting staff are working on the variance schedule language for permits
  • Compliance staff are working on meaningful templates for plans to reduce chloride in wastewater
  • Staff in the Resource Management and Assistance Division are looking for funds to help identify opportunities to reduce chloride in wastewater

The agency will share updates on this work via the On Point newsletter.


In order to protect its freshwater fish and other species from salty water, the MPCA is setting limits on chloride discharged from wastewater treatment facilities (WWTFs). However, reducing chloride in wastewater is difficult, both technically and economically, prompting the agency to convene a work group of community representatives to study this issue in 2016.

The work group met several times in 2016-17 to discuss how to address chloride in wastewater discharge permits. Pursuing a variance to allow time to identify ways to meet a chloride limit was one of the work group’s recommendations. The MPCA commissioner and Citizens Advisory Committee agreed with that recommendation.

Until August 2016, the EPA allowed variances to limits in wastewater discharge permits only for states on the Great Lakes, Minnesota being one of them. The federal regulations limited variances to 5 years. In August 2016, the federal regulations changed, allowing variances throughout the United States. The federal government also updated the regulations, changing the 5-year variance term to “only as long as necessary to achieve the highest attainable condition.” So what is the highest attainable condition, or HAC?

That question is being tackled at the state and federal levels. EPA Region 5, including Minnesota, has been comfortable with 5-year terms for variances. However, the MPCA recognizes that 5 years is not long enough for cities to meaningfully investigate sources of chloride and options for reduction and potential treatment. Although permit holders can renew a variance at the end of 5 years, spending time and resources to do this would not result in less chloride reaching surface waters.

For more information:

Governor proposes funding to speed up online services for permit holders

In his budget announced this week, Gov. Tim Walz included $1.6 million to maintain and expand online services for Minnesota industries, wastewater treatment facilities and feedlots.

The MPCA offers 20 online services with another 55 expected by the end of 2020. However, more than 400 service activities are needed to meet customer expectations. Current online services support annual licensing of more than 6,000 hazardous waste generators, issuance of more than 3,000 construction stormwater permits, and provide online monthly reporting for more than 1,400 wastewater operators. More than 10,000 individuals have signed into the current online services with more than 50,000 transactions completed.

Expanding online services would help achieve the following:

  • Better and faster customer service by creating more online services for permit holders and partners to submit applications, notifications, data and reports.
  • Quicker property redevelopment because of faster responses to applications for assistance and improved response times to record requests.
  • Expanded assistance time available to work directly with municipalities, businesses, feedlot owners and many other constituents.
  • Improved and expanded online access to environmental data and information for all Minnesotans.
  • Improved data access for staff to complete daily work effectively and efficiently.
  • Enhanced partnerships with government partners by allowing them to use the data systems.

The final budget will be decided by the 2019 Minnesota Legislature.

For more information about MPCA priorities in the governor’s budget, visit the MPCA website.

Update: MPCA now receiving reports, submittals electronically

The MPCA is now receiving most reports and submittals electronically from wastewater treatment facilities with National Pollutant Discharge Elimination (NPDES) / State Disposal System (SDS) permits. These permits require certain reports and water quality submittals (WQ Submittals).

The majority of these WQ Submittals can now be emailed to: wq.submittals.mpca@state.mn.us.

Please follow these steps:

  • Fill out the WQ Submittals form (available at the bottom of the DMRs webpage)
  • Attach the form and submittal to your email
  • Send the email by the due date

Note: The MPCA will not deem the WQ Submittal as received unless the form is attached.

The EXCEPTIONS to this new electronic submittal process:

  • Pretreatment Annual Reports
  • Whole Effluent Toxicity Tests (WET Tests)

These reports must still be submitted as paper copies to:

Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

Attention: WQ Submittals Center

520 Lafayette Road North

St. Paul, MN 55155-4194

PLEASE REMEMBER: This does NOT pertain to DMR submittals and attachments. Please continue to submit your DMRs as you normally would as that electronic submittal process has not changed. The new process pertains only to Water Quality Submittals. Also, you do NOT need to follow up with a mailed in copy if you have submitted it electronically.

If you have any questions regarding this new process, please contact your assigned data manager or compliance staff person.

MPCA appoints assistant commissioner for air and climate policy

Craig McDonnell, MPCA assistant commissioner for air and climate policy

The MPCA recently appointed Craig McDonnell as Assistant Commissioner for Air and Climate Policy in January 2019. McDonnell most recently served as Director of Government Relations at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. He has also served as a long-time adviser to Minnesota Governor Tim Walz on climate and energy policy. McDonnell served a number of years as a consultant and energy policy analyst focusing on federal policy, where he advised clients on U.S. energy policy and market trends, developed strategic outreach plans for international partnerships, and conducted research on the feasibility and implications of climate change policies.

He received his bachelor's of science from the University of Wisconsin - Madison and his master's of Public Policy from the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs with an emphasis in science, technology, and environmental policy.

Lotthammer accepts leadership role at Minnesota DNR

After serving the MPCA for more 20 years, Assistant Commissioner for Water Policy Shannon Lotthammer recently announced that she has accepted a leadership role at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Beginning Feb. 25, Lotthammer will assume her role at the DNR as assistant commissioner overseeing the divisions of Forestry, Parks and Trails, and Operations Services.

Her term at the MPCA included serving as the agency’s agricultural and tribal liaison, director of the Environmental Analysis and Outcomes Division, and various other positons. Lotthammer is known for her extraordinary leadership in water policy, water quality improvement, and Environmental Justice.

MPCA announces new staff in wastewater programs

Marcell Mikkelson, MPCA wastewater program

Marcell Mikkelson

Marcell Mikkelson joins the MPCA as an environmental specialist with the infrastructure financing unit. He previously served as a project assistant with the Clean Energy Resource Teams and as a tree inspector with City of Plymouth Parks and Forestry Department. Mikkelson holds a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Sciences, Policy, and Management from the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities. Outside of work, he enjoys hiking, birding, longboarding, playing video games and traveling.

“I’m looking forward to learning more about the permitting process and working with people across Minnesota to keep our water clean,” he said.

You can reach him at marcell.mikkelson@state.mn.us or 651-757-2134.

Chris Hinze of the MPCA municipal wastewater program

Chris Hinze

Chris Hinze joins the agency’s municipal wastewater program as a permit writer. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science, Policy, and Management from the University of Minnesota. Before joining the MPCA, he worked for two small law offices in Minnetonka to explore his interest in attending law school. Hinze worked on many case types including family, criminal, personal injury, and estate planning. His interests include rock climbing, cross-country skiing, riding bike year-round, and getting involved in his neighborhood communities.

“I look forward to working with the operators and wastewater professionals in my region of Hennepin, Ramsey, Carver, Washington, Scott and Dakota counties,” Hinze said.

You can reach him at 651-757-2147 or christopher.hinze@state.mn.us.

Hailey Gorman of the MPCA municipal wastewater program

Hailey Gorman

Hailey Gorman has joined the MPCA as a compliance and enforcement officer in municipal wastewater. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science with a minor in chemistry from Minnesota State University-Mankato. Her previous experience includes interning as a lab assistant with the City of Mankato WWTP when a high school senior and working with the Southeast Minnesota Wastewater Initiative to assist small communities in upgrading failing septic systems. Outside of work, Gorman enjoys running, traveling, and craft beer.

“I look forward to partnering with wastewater specialists in my region of Anoka, Isanti, Chisago, and Washington counties to solve problems and protect our environment,” she said.

You can reach her at 651-757-2487 or hailey.gorman@state.mn.us.

Sarah Starr of the MPCA municipal wastewater program

Sarah Starr

Sarah Starr joins the MPCA’s municipal wastewater program as a permit writer. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science from Otterbein College in Ohio and a master’s degree in Environment and Natural Resources my from The Ohio State University. Before joining the MPCA, she worked for the North Dakota Department of Health where she wrote North Dakota Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NDPDES) permits and completed wastewater inspections. During her free time, she enjoys hiking, camping, going to the movies, traveling and taking care of her 3 fur-babies (2 dogs and a cat).

“I look forward to learning how the NPDES permitting process works in Minnesota,” Starr said.

You can reach her at 651-757-2335 or sarah.starr@state.mn.us.

Note: Updated permit writer assignments

As a result of hiring three new Municipal Wastewater permit writers, there may be a new permitting contact assigned to your county. Please see the updated permit writer assignment map online: www.pca.state.mn.us/water/wastewater-permit-writers.

Apply to GreenCorps program for help with environmental issues, outreach

The MPCA is now accepting applications from organizations interested in hosting Minnesota GreenCorps in 2019-20. Applications are due by 5 p.m. March 22. Eligible applicants include local government units, school districts, higher education, tribes and non-profit groups.

Minnesota GreenCorps is an environmentally focused AmeriCorps program coordinated by the MPCA that places AmeriCorps members with organizations around the state to spend a year of service addressing critical environmental issues, while gaining experience and learning valuable job skills. Organizations may apply for Minnesota GreenCorps members who will serve on projects in the areas of: Air pollutant reduction; waste reduction, recycling, and organics management; green infrastructure improvements; or community readiness and outreach.

The MPCA plans to place up to 42 full-time members with host sites throughout Minnesota for the 2019-20 program year. Members serve about 40 hours a week for 11 months from September 2019 through August 2020.

Please direct questions to mngreencorps.pca@state.mn.us.

eDMRs: Tip on chlorine applies to other parameters with no results


Last month’s eDMR tip explained what to do if your facility used no chlorine or did no chlorine monitoring:

  • On the eDMR, leave the parameter box blank
  • Add a note indicating that you did not chlorinate or that monitoring wasn't done

The same tip applies to other parameters that were not required to be monitored in that specific period or that you do not have any data for:

  • Leave the parameter box blank. Do not put "0" or "NA" in the parameter box.
  • Add a note that monitoring wasn’t done.

The Data Managers will not check the exceptions to the eDMR if there is no note reported on the eDMR. Violations will appear if not including a note and not checking the exceptions. Please remember to include a note as to why no data is reported in that specific box.

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 or visit the data management staff at the DMR booth at the annual wastewater conference (more information below).

MPCA annual conferences coming up quickly

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

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 are now available on the MPCA Wastewater Training webpage.  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 is available 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 open house

Other topics include new plants 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 are available on the MPCA Wastewater Training webpage. 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.

Collection and Wastewater conferences registration fax line issue

Over the past few weeks, the fax registration number, 651-205-4594, has been down. If you attempted to fax your registration between Jan. 31 and Feb. 14, the fax will have failed to go through and you should have received a notification that your fax was not successful. If you are not sure if your fax went through successfully, please contact Annaliza Heesch at 651-757-2591 or annaliza.heesch@state.mn.us to verify whether you are registered.

Please note this fax number is now working again. Other ways to register include mailing in your registration form, or contacting Annaliza Heesch at 651-757-2591 or annaliza.heesch@state.mn.us. The registration forms are on the last page of the conference brochures on the MPCA Wastewater Operator Training webpage: www.pca.state.mn.us/water/wastewater-operators-training-and-certification.

Keep checking training calendar for new events

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

There will be 3 exam sessions in March:

  • The Minnesota Rural Water Association Annual conference in St. Cloud will host an exam session on March 7. All exam applications must have been postmarked by Feb. 20 for the March 7 exam session.  
  • The MPCA will offer exam sessions on March 26 at the Annual Collections System Conference and on March 29 at the Annual Wastewater Operators Conference held in Brooklynn Park. Applications for these sessions must be postmarked by March 11.

State approves funding for wastewater projects in Windom, Dennison

The Minnesota Public Facilities Authority approved funding for wastewater infrastructure projects in Minnesota:

The city of Windom in Cottonwood County will receive $18.9 million to help pay for advanced treatment improvements to meet nutrient limits, rehabilitation of the existing treatment facility, and lining of sanitary sewer lines. Funding will come in the form of a $6.3 million Point Source Implementation Grant, a special legislative appropriation of $3 million and a $9.6 million Clean Water Revolving Fund loan

The city of Dennison in Goodhue and Rice counties will receive $321,665 toward the predesign, design and construction of a new lift station and the installation of electric service to the sewer ponds. Funding for this project comes from a 2017 special legislative appropriation for the improvements.

The Minnesota Public Facilities Authority (PFA) provides financing and technical assistance to help communities build and maintain public infrastructure that protects public health and the environment and promotes economic growth.

Grant helps Carver expand infrastructure, local industry

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) recently announced a $977,134 grant to the city of Carver in Carver County to help extend streets, water, sewer and other public infrastructure necessary for Lakeview Industries to relocate and expand. Lakeview Industries is a high tech manufacturer of flexible non-metallic components for medical, aerospace, telecommunications and other industries. Lakeview Industries will retain 90 full-time employees and add an additional 31 full-time employees.

DEED is the state’s main economic development agency, promoting business recruitment, expansion and retention, workforce development, international trade and community development.

In the news and online: Old pipes and new rates