On Point for May 2019: Input sought on chloride management plan

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On Point - News and updates for wastewater discharge permit holders

May 2019

Wanted: Input on plan to protect Minnesota waters from chloride pollution

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

Chloride concentrations are increasing in water bodies across Minnesota, raising concern about the impact of this salty pollutant to freshwater fish and other species. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) recently drafted a Statewide Chloride Management Plan and is now seeking public input on the draft, including three upcoming workshops. Speakers will show how your 2017 comments shaped the plan, and provide another chance to give feedback before it is final.

In addition, there are Smart Salting Level 2 Trainings in the same locations in the afternoon. The morning sessions on the draft plan will include refreshments, and the afternoon trainings will include lunch. There is no charge for either workshop, and participants are encouraged to attend both. Note that you need to register separately for each event.

  • Twin Cities: Thursday, May 30, 8:30 a.m.-noon, at the Dakota Lodge, 1200 Stassen Lane, West St. Paul, MN 55118. Registration is open online at EventBrite. Smart Salting Level 2 Training: lunch at 12:30 p.m. with training starting at 1 p.m. Register at EventBrite.
  • Duluth: Wednesday, June 12, 8:30 a.m.-noon, Griggs Center, Kirby Student Center, 1120 Kirby Drive, Duluth, MN 55812-3085. Register at EventBrite. Smart Salting Level 2 Training: lunch at 12:30 p.m. with training starting at 1 p.m. Register at EventBrite.
  • St. Cloud/Alexandria: Wednesday, June 19, 8:30 a.m.-noon, Douglas County Public Works Department, 526 Willow Drive, Alexandria, MN 56308. Register at EventBrite. Smart Salting Level 2 Training: lunch at 12:30 p.m. with training starting at 1 p.m. Register at EventBrite.

The new plan expands the one that originally addressed road salt runoff impacts in the Twin Cites metro area. The Statewide Chloride Management Plan takes a deeper look into winter maintenance throughout Minnesota and includes other sources of chloride such as water softening, dust control, agriculture, wastewater treatment plants, and more.

The plan will also include an updated analysis of current trends and conditions of Minnesota waters. In addition, the plan will include strategies for reducing chloride from all sources to protect Minnesota waters from increasing chloride pollution.

The MPCA has also updated the Smart Salting Assessment tool (SSAt) that allows winter maintenance and summer maintenance professionals to develop a salt reduction plan and track progress for their organization. In 2017, MPCA staff traveled around Minnesota to gain input on updating the SSAt and Chloride Management Plan for a statewide audience. The agency incorporated those ideas and now seeks additional feedback.

The informational meetings are intended for:

  • City and county staff
  • Tribes
  • Road salt applicators: public (school districts, colleges, etc.) and private contractors
  • Watershed districts and Soil and Water Conservation Districts
  • State agencies such as the Minnesota Department of Transportation
  • Interested citizens and groups such as lake associations

For additional information, please contact Eric Alms at the MPCA: Eric.Alms@state.mn.us or 651-757-2589.

0% interest loans available for projects aimed at reducing chloride, I and I, and other BMPs

Water softener exhibit at Eco Experience at Minnesota State Fair 2018

The MPCA has 0% interest loans available, through the Clean Water Partnership program, for government units and tribes to use for programs and projects that reduce non-point source pollution. Of interest to wastewater discharge permit holders, municipalities can apply for the loans to do the following:

  • Start a program for residents to trade in old and inefficient water softeners for high-efficiency units.
  • Implement other best management practices (BMPs) to reduce chloride in wastewater.
  • Buy equipment to help reduce road salt applications, such as upgrading salt applicators.
  • Buy equipment for street sweeping.
  • Start a loan program for residents to replace their private laterals that connect to municipal wastewater lines, in order to reduce inflow and infiltration.
  • Other BMPS that reduce or manage stormwater, such as green infrastructure, pervious pavements and rain gardens.

In addition, tribes and government units can use loans to implement projects directly or to set up a loan fund for landowners and other stakeholders for projects such as:

  • Buffers: purchase of native seeds and vegetation
  • Septic system upgrades and replacements
  • Technical assistance, outreach, and education
  • Equipment purchases supporting nonpoint BMPs
  • Any nonpoint source BMP
  • Feedlot upgrades and replacement  

Government units and tribes may apply to MPCA at any time. See the program webpage for more information, or contact:

  • Cindy Penny, 651-757-2099 or cynthia.penny@state.mn.us
  • Kurt Soular, 651-757-2748 or kurtis.soular@state.mn.us

Permit termination requests now available via e-services

Permit termination requests are now available via the MPCA’s e-Services. Wastewater discharge permit holders are able to create/log into their accounts to apply for a permit termination. Additional instructions can be found here: www.pca.state.mn.us/sites/default/files/p-gen1-18.pdf. During the transition period, the agency will accept either paper (via the Permit Change Request form) or the e-Services application. However, the online service will be mandatory for permit termination applications at some point in the future. The permit terminations will not be automatic. Following submittal, the agency will review the request and the assigned permit writer will send a confirmation letter.

eDMR tips: How to submit parameters with no results and how to use electronic calendars


Parameters with no results

Are there months that you don’t have data to report, either because they weren’t required or the sampling was missed? For instance, chlorine residual, mercury or the nitrogen series? If this scenario applies to you, make sure to follow these instructions for reporting on your eDMR:

  • Leave the parameter box blank. Do not put "0" or "NA" in the parameter box.
  • Add a note that monitoring wasn’t conducted in the comments field on the eDMR.

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 were 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 your assigned data manager.

Tips for using electronic calendars

To prevent missing monitoring and sampling events, or to avoid late submittals, permittees are using electronic calendars associated with their email systems, such as Outlook. If you think you would benefit from this type of organization, below are a few tips for your consideration:

  • Create a task or calendar event and reminder notification(s) for parameters that are not sampled routinely.
  • Create a task or event and reminder notification(s) for any due dates in your permit.
  • Set the task(s) or event(s) as reoccurring so that it corresponds with your permit expiration date.
  • Upon a permit reissuance, perform any edits to previously created task(s) or event(s) to ensure compliance with reissued permit.

If you need assistance, consider contacting computer savvy individuals within your organization or family. Additionally, consider using YouTube video tutorials.

Quick tips for operators renewing their certifications

Here are a few quick tips when renewing your collection system or wastewater operator license:

  • All renewal forms are mailed 3 months prior to your expiration date to the address you have provided. Make sure to update your address and email information when changes occur to ensure you are getting your required documentation and notices.
  • All continuing education hours need to be completed before your certification expiration date.
  • If you attended training that was not sponsored by the MPCA, you must submit proof of attendance and a copy of the schedule or program for contact hour determination

If you have questions or concerns on certification or exams, contact Tracy Finch at tracy.finch@state.mn.us.

It’s official! Hours reduced for Type IV operator and inspector recertification

Starting this month, the state of Minnesota has reduced the number of contact hours that Type IV operators and inspectors need to renew their certification. You now need six hours every three years instead of nine hours every three years. This means that the day-and-a-half training will now be a one-day training, starting in 2020.

If you are signed up for the May or the October MPCA training this year, the MPCA will still be offering a day-and-a-half of content (nine contact hours). You may choose to:

  • Attend all day on Wednesday, which would satisfy your six Type IV contact hours
  • Stay for the entire day-and-a-half (Wednesday to mid-Thursday), with the additional three hours counting as general wastewater contact hours

For the training year 2020 and years going forward, these refreshers will become a one-day class (six contact hours). The Minnesota Wastewater Operators Association (MWOA) July conference will be a one-day, six-hour refresher, which will be held on Thursday, July 25.

If you have questions regarding the reduction in hours, contact Sherry Bock of the MPCA at 218-316-3882 or sheryl.bock@state.mn.us. If you have questions regarding the registration for the May or October refresher, contact Annaliza Heesch at 651-757-2591 or annaliza.heesch@state.mn.us.

Concern over non-native Phragmites leads to change for land application of biosolids

Non-native Phragmites, an invasive species in Minnesota

There has been growing concern over the impacts of non-native Phragmites - large non-native perennial grasses- in Minnesota. Invasive populations can alter the hydrology of wetland systems, lower plant diversity, impact food webs, and reduce diversity and abundance of invertebrates, fish, and waterbirds.

Historically, Phragmites were thought to spread by rhizomes; however, new research from the University of Minnesota has shown that Phragmites can and have spread by seed. Given this new information, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) has decided to temporarily halt the issuance of permits for the transportation of biosolids containing non-native Phragmites to biosolids land application sites. Please note that this only impacts the transportation and land application of biosolids containing non-native Phragmites. The MPCA estimates this change will affect about 16 MPCA permit holders.

Biosolids that potentially contain non-native Phragmites can receive a permit from MDA for transportation to a landfill. The MPCA realizes that this could be a more costly option and is not what the land application program usually promotes. However, the risk is too great in the long term should non-native Phragmites become established through the land application of biosolids. Therefore, the MPCA supports MDA’s decision on this matter. Thank you for your support in helping to ensure that biosolids are land applied in a safe manner that does not cause harm to the environment.

For information regarding the management of biosoilds, please contact Sherry Bock of the MPCA at sheryl.bock@state.mn.us or 218-316-3882. 

If you have questions regarding a permit to transport biosolids, please contact Anthony Cortilet with the MDA at anthony.cortilet@state.mn.us or 651-201-6538.

The University of Minnesota will host a webinar on “Invasive Phragmites in Minnesota” on May 22. Go to the following link for additional information: z.umn.edu/PhragWebinar.

MPCA offering wastewater operator training events this summer

The MPCA is offering training this summer on the following dates:

  • May 29-30: Type IV (Land Application of Biosolids) Refresher at the Arrowwood Lodge in Baxter.
  • June 19: Pump Workshop at General Repair in Vadnais Heights.
  • July 16: Biological Nutrient Removal Workshop at St. Cloud. The first half of the day will be held at the Holiday Inn and Suites at St. Cloud and the second half of the day will be held at the St. Cloud Public Utilities Department Wastewater Treatment Plant.
  • Aug. 13-15: Wastewater Treatment Basic class at the Holiday Inn and Suites in St. Cloud.

Details and registration information for these training events can be found in the 2019 MPCA Wastewater Operator Training Calendar available on the agency website: www.pca.state.mn.us/water/wastewater-operators-training-and-certification. For more information, contact Annaliza Heesch at 651-757-2591 or  annaliza.heesch@state.mn.us.

July 18: Workshop on making utilities resilient to climate change

The Minnesota Rural Water Association, Minnesota Department of Health, MPCA and EPA are hosting a free training for drinking water, stormwater and wastewater utilities on resilience planning and adapting to current and future extreme weather threats.

The training will take place on Thursday, July 18, in St. Cloud, Minn.

The training objectives include:

  • Share information about how environmental conditions and extreme weather events (such as drought and flooding) could impact drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater utilities in Minnesota.
  • Introduce EPA’s Creating Resilient Water Utilities (CRWU) resources and tools.
  • Identify and share information on adaptation strategies to build utility long-term resilience and discuss strategies for making the business case to invest in resilience.
  • Share utility stories of successful resilience planning efforts and adaptation activities.
  • Share information on available resources for financing resilience and adaptation.

Who should attend?

  • Drinking water, wastewater and stormwater utility staff and management involved with planning, operations, sustainability and risk management
  • Technical assistance providers
  • Local, state, federal and tribal government officials
  • Watershed planners
  • Water sector associations

Certified water and wastewater operators will receive 6.0 contact hours for continuing education units (CEUs).

Register by July 2 at: www.sciencemissionsupport.com/creatminnesotareg.

Now open for comment: Industrial Stormwater General Permit for Minnesota

Sampling of industrial stormwatet to ensure permit compliance

The draft general permit for Industrial Stormwater is open for comment through June 18. This General Permit for Industrial Stormwater Multi-Sector (ISW) will be in effect from April 1, 2020 to April 1, 2025. This is a reissuance of an existing general permit that covers facilities discharging stormwater associated with industrial activity to various waters throughout the state. The existing general permit will expire on April 5, 2020.

A draft permit and fact sheet are available for review on the MPCA Public Notices webpage at www.pca.state.mn.us/publicnotices and scrolling to May 20. Comments can be submitted in writing or via email to SW.permit.mpca@state.mn.us during the public comment period.

See the full press release on the MPCA website.

PFA awards financing for water infrastructure projects

The Minnesota Public Facilities Authority (PFA) recently approved loan and grant funding for water infrastructure projects in Minnesota, including:

  • Crystal Bay Township, in Lake County: $60,000 for assessing potential wastewater treatment options for the community. Funding for this project comes from a Small Community Waste Water Technical Assistance grant.
  • Glencoe, in McLeod County: $24.9 million for rehabilitation of the city’s wastewater treatment facility and upgrades to provide additional treatment for phosphorus. Project funding includes a Point Source Implementation Grant, Clean Water Revolving Fund (CWRF) principal forgiveness grant, and a 1% CWRF loan.
  • Rice County: $46,000 for a feasibility study to evaluate wastewater treatment alternatives in the southwest Cedar Lake community. Funding will come from the Small Community Waste Water Technical Assistance program.

We Are Water MN exhibit opens in Austin, focuses on Cedar River watershed

Cedar River: canoeing

The Cedar River Watershed District is hosting the We Are Water MN exhibit at the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center through June 16. The exhibit and events are designed to build awareness and respect of many cultural, historical, and personal perspectives related to water in the Austin community.

Visit the Cedar River Watershed District website for details.

We Are Water MN is a popular statewide traveling exhibition and community engagement project that invites visitors to reflect on the experiences of local people and come to a deeper understanding of what taking care of water means to people. Science and history are also included via this 1,000-square foot, hands-on exhibit created by the Minnesota Humanities Center, MPCA, Minnesota Historical Society and Departments of Health, Agriculture and Natural Resources.

In the news and online: Sewage treatment rules and plans