On Point for July 2019: MN River Basin studies highlight need for widespread changes for water quality

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On Point - News and updates for wastewater discharge permit holders

July 2019

Widespread changes needed for waters in Minnesota River Basin to improve

sediment jars minnesota river

Changes in water and land management are needed across the Minnesota River Basin for the state’s namesake river to improve in water quality, as well as streams and lakes throughout the 10 million acres of the basin, according to four studies by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and local partners.

The studies, funded by the Legacy Amendment, determined the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) or the maximum amount of a pollutant that a water body can accept and still meet water quality standards. The standards are designed to make sure waters are fishable and swimmable.

One study concerns the major portion of the Minnesota River, focusing on Total Suspended Solids or sediment and other particles that cloud the water. The study calls for decreasing sediment in the river by 50 percent. Too much water draining at too fast a rate erodes soil from land as well as streambanks, bluffs and ravines, muddying the water. The muddy water then makes it hard for fish and other aquatic species to breathe, find food and reproduce. The sediment is also filling in the Lower Minnesota River and even Lake Pepin downstream at a much faster rate than before European settlement – and intensive farming – of the basin.

In addition to the main Minnesota River, TMDL studies for the Lower Minnesota, Minnesota River-Mankato and Watonwan river watersheds will be open for comment. Altogether, these three studies look at dozens of river segments impaired by bacteria, sediment, nutrients and/or chloride as well as 50 lakes with nutrient levels high enough to cause algae. The MPCA and partners have prepared Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategies (WRAPS) for the three watersheds, also open for comment.

To learn more about the studies:

To provide feedback:

  • Comments must be in writing and are due by 4:30 p.m., Sept. 20.
  • Use the line comment form at www.pca.state.mn.us/help-us-help-our-water-comment.
  • Written comments must include a statement of your interest in the report and the action you wish the MPCA to take, including specific references to sections of the draft report you believe should be changed and the reasons for making those changes.

Photo above: The far left jar is tap water, provided for comparison. The next jar is the clarity goal for the Minnesota River and tributaries. The jar third from left is the average clarity of streams in the basin. The far right jar is the muddiness of the water after a spring storm event. Except for the tap water, the jars contain water samples collected from the Le Sueur River at different times of the spring and summer.

Draft Lake Pepin Watershed Phosphorus TMDL Report available for informal comment

The MPCA has posted the Draft: Lake Pepin Watershed Phosphorus TMDL Report on its website for informal review and comment. Interested parties may submit comments through Sept. 20. They may also request a meeting by phone or in person to learn more about the draft TMDL. Send comments, or meeting requests, to Justin Watkins, watershed supervisor, at justin.watkins@state.mn.us or 507-206-2621.

The formal public notice will follow later this year.

eDMR tip: What to do if you miss a sample


Have you ever found yourself completing your discharge monitoring report (DMR) and realized you’ve missed a sample?

If you’ve missed a required monitoring event, you should consider doing the following:

  • Immediately contact your laboratory. Often times labs will hold the remaining volume of your sample for a given period and can perform analysis upon request.
  • Collect another sample. Whether you’re able to collect a sample in the same monitoring period or during a future discharge, take action to make up any missed monitoring events.
  • Contact MPCA staff. MPCA compliance staff can help identify options and provide guidance to ensure proper reporting to minimize any potential non-compliance.

Save on postage and send in Water Quality Submittals electronically

The MPCA accepts most reports and submittals electronically from wastewater treatment facilities with National Pollutant Discharge Elimination (NPDES) / State Disposal System (SDS) permits.

The majority of these Water Quality (WQ) Submittals can be emailed to: wq.submittals.mpca@state.mn.us.

Please follow these easy steps:

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

The ONLY EXCEPTIONS to this new electronic submittal process are:

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

These 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

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

Upcoming events for wastewater operator training

  • Aug. 13-15: A Wastewater Treatment Basic Class will be offered Aug. 13-15 at the Holiday Inn and Suites in St. Cloud.
  • Sept. 10-12: A Type IV Biosolids Basic Class will be offered Sept.10-12, also at the Holiday Inn and Suites in St. Cloud.

For details and registration information, see the 2019 MPCA Wastewater Operator Training Calendar on the MPCA website: www.pca.state.mn.us/water/wastewater-operators-training-and-certification.

Tips regarding the wastewater exam and certification process

To be eligible to take a certification exam, you must have hands-on experience in wastewater facility operations. Exam application fees are nonrefundable even if the agency determines you are ineligible to take the exam. See the eligibility requirements on the MPCA website: www.pca.state.mn.us/publications/wq-wwtp8-13.pdf. The exam application can be found on the MPCA training and certification website: www.pca.state.mn.us/water/wastewater-operators-training-and-certification.

On the applications:

  • Make sure to type or print neatly in blue or black ink.
  • Complete both sides of the application, then sign and date it.
  • Please be sure to provide a current email address for all notifications concerning exam session and exam scores.
  • The application fee must be included or the application will be returned.
  • Applications must be postmarked at least 15 days before the exam date.
  • Incomplete applications will be returned.
  • Read the Tennessen Warning about your rights and information you submit.

After taking the exam, you will receive your scores by email and then by a formal letter in the mail. Once you have passed the exam, you are not certified until you follow the instructions in the letter. You will be required to pay a $45 certification fee within 90 days of receiving your formal letter. If you do not submit the fee within 90 days, you must apply for re-examinations.

For all questions or concerns on exams or certification, please contact Tracy Finch at the MPCA at 651-757-2103 or tracy.finch@state.mn.us

Help make 2020 conferences a success by joining the planning committee

Have you been on the planning committee for the annual collection system and wastewater operations conferences? Do you know someone who may be interested in serving on the planning committee? The 46th Annual Collection System Operators Conference and 83nd Annual Wastewater Operations Conference is set for March 23-27, 2020. The planning committee will meet at 10:30 a.m. on Oct. 10 at the Minneapolis Marriott Northwest to help make the 2020 event a success. Contact Annaliza Heesch at annaliza.heesch@state.mn.us or 651-757-2591 if you would like to be part of the committee or for more information.

MPCA welcomes new wastewater training specialist

Marcus Weikert is the newest member of the MPCA Wastewater Training and Certification Team. Marc comes to the agency with experience as a trainer with the Recruit Sustainment Program for the Army National Guard, a water and wastewater operator for Cold Spring Brewing, and most recently as an instructor with the Water Environment Technologies program at St. Cloud Technical and Community College. You can reach him at 651-757-2372 or marcus.weikert@state.mn.us.

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