MPCA OnPoint newsletter for wastewater discharge permit holders

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On Point: News and updates for wastewater discharge permit holders

July 2020

Cities, Salt Symposium addressing role of water softeners in Minnesota's chloride pollution problem 


Twenty-three percent of all chloride pollution comes from wastewater treatment plants and roughly 65 percent of all chloride passing through wastewater facilities — 136,000 tons of chloride annually — comes from residential and commercial water softening processes.  

Cities like Marshall are working with residents and businesses on how together they can reduce the amount of salt reaching our lakes and rivers. 


The Annual Salt Symposium will cover this issue and much more during a live-streamed event Aug. 4-5.

In conjunction with the symposium, the MPCA is offering free Smart Salting Certification training Aug. 6 (Roads, Parking Lots and Sidewalks).


MPCA updating chloride variance application process

In March 2020, the MPCA received approval from the EPA for the first chloride variance in the state. While we expected it to take some time, it did ultimately take longer than we expected due to the need for extensive conversations with the EPA to ensure approval of the variance.

In those discussions, we learned that one key factor in the EPA’s review was the amount of available information about chloride sources within the community. To address this concern and make the process smoother for everyone, we are planning to make some minor changes to the variance application process. Essentially, the application will guide the Permittee through a basic inventory of potential chloride sources and provide this information with the request. Following submittal, MPCA will review the application and chloride source inventory for completeness.

There are templates available to aid in this effort. The first is a framework for constructing a 15-year variance (Streamlined chloride variance action tree (wq-wwprm2-88)). The second is a more specific template for development of a Chloride Reduction and Minimization Plan (Strategy for municipal chloride reduction and minimization (wq-wwprm2-71). This is intended to be tailored by you for your City, so we have made available an editable Word version on the website.

Finally, the MPCA will update the variance application to ask for more information about a municipality’s likely sources of chloride to the WWTP.

Whether you have a chloride limit in your permit with a compliance schedule or have requested a variance, the goal is the same-- reduce the amount of chloride and other salty parameters entering the wastewater plant. This remains the most cost effective way to protect water quality.

Work continues on the best ways to do this. You can visit our webpage dedicated to water permit holders and chloride ( We hope to share success stories in the future in order to help other cities working toward the same goals. 

If you have questions involving chloride in wastewater, visit the webpage above or contact Elise Doucette (

Clean Water Partnership loan program reducing water pollution, one project at a time


We continue to streamline the process to make it easy and quick for our local partners and tribal nations to apply for and receive a  zero-interest Clean Water Partnership (CWP) loan for projects that reduce non-point source pollution from diffuse sources such as failing septic systems and cropland runoff.

The CWP loan program had one of its biggest years ever in fiscal 2020, awarding $8.75 million in no-interest loans. Some of that money was used to purchase a street sweeper for the City of Edgerton that allows the city to clean streets more quickly and efficiently than it could using its previous machine.

Rock River site-specific standard reflects current science, benefits city of Luverne

Rock River in SW MN

The city of Luverne will benefit from site-specific water quality standards for salinity in the Rock River downstream from the city’s wastewater treatment plant. The new standards would more accurately reflect what is needed to ensure the water can be used for cropland irrigation. As a Class 4A water, the Rock River must able to support crop production without damage or adverse effects.

The proposed standard addresses two parameters in the water: specific conductance and sodium. The Class 4A sodium value will be replaced with a numeric standard for sodium adsorption ratio (SAR). According to current research, protecting soil health from excess SAR also protects from direct sodium toxicity to plants. The change may also contribute to Luverne’s capacity for industrial development.

Minnesota rule allows site-specific standards to be developed when local circumstances support a modification to statewide standards. The standards would apply to about 16 miles of the Rock River from Luverne to the Iowa border. The city is completing a $14 million wastewater treatment upgrade to significantly improve the quality of the water it discharges.

The public comment period for the site specific standard closed on June 18. MPCA received five written comment letters, which are available on its website.  Currently, MPCA is in the process of reviewing comments and will post responses on its website when complete. The site specific standard packet will be sent to EPA for their final review by the end of July.

The public notice, technical background, and WebEx recording of a public information meeting June 11 via WebEx can be accessed on the MPCA Site Specific Water Quality Standards webpage.

311 wastewater facilities recognized for outstanding permit compliance

The MPCA recently recognized 311 Minnesota wastewater treatment facilities (out of 1,000 reviewed) for outstanding permit compliance for the period between October 2018 and September 2019. 

Go to this page on the MPCA website to find a searchable list of all the facilities that received this special recognition.

Compliance tip: Post steps for responding to unauthorized discharges


Do you have a new employee at your wastewater facility? Or maybe you need a reminder on steps to take when things go wrong and a release occurs. NPDES/ SDS permits require specific actions be taken when a release occurs.

Consider printing out a version or versions of this sign and share with new employees or post in your office, shop, or work vehicles to help your facility stay in compliance.

There are several different versions to fit various settings. There is also a link to contact information for the Minnesota Duty Officer.

In the event of a release, complete a Release Report and submit with next DMR

Should an unauthorized wastewater release, discharge or bypass occur, your facility will need to complete a copy of the new "Release report" and attach it to your next DMR submission. Download and save a copy of the report form so you have it handy should you ever need it. 


Wastewater operator training and certification

The 2020 Wastewater Operator Training Calendar will continue to follow guidance in accordance with Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) strategies to slow the spread of the COVID-19 Virus. Training events scheduled for July and August have not yet been canceled; however, we will not be accepting additional registrations for July and August classes at this time. July and August courses may be canceled or registration reopened pending ongoing restrictions related to COVID-19. It may be possible to reschedule canceled classes or exam sessions in the weeks and months ahead as conditions and logistics allow.

The Type IV Refresher cancelled in May has been rescheduled for July 15 and 16, 2020. It will be offered as an online WebEx webinar (6 hours). Registration information for the Type IV Refresher webinar is available on the MPCA website.  Those who register for this webinar will receive specific guidance via email about how to connect and participate.  For more information please visit the MPCA Wastewater Training and Certification webpage , or contact Marcus Weikert at 651-757-2372  or via Email:

The MPCA continues to assure certified individuals that:

  • Certifications scheduled to expire between March 13 and December 31, 2020, will not lapse as a result of course cancellations or COVID-19 related restrictions. This date may be reassessed in the future.
  • Individuals with certifications that expire during this timeframe will not be required to retest.  Please submit your renewal form, renewal fee and documentation of any training you do have to the MPCA at the time of your expiration. Wastewater certification renewal forms are mailed to you directly 3 months prior to your expiration date.  If you have not completed all your continuing education hours as a result of the cancelled workshops you will be given one year from when training becomes available to make up the continuing education you missed.
  • Wastewater professionals will still be responsible for obtaining their required continuing education hours within one year of when training becomes available again.

Individuals seeking regulatory flexibility due to COVID-19 for issues other than certification renewal must contact where these requests will be managed on a case-by-case basis. More information: COVID-19 and regulatory flexibility.

eDMR Tips: Electronic water quality submittals


Please continue to send correspondence electronically to provide a more efficient response while reducing the need for paper. You can send in your submittals electronically to the electronic WQ Submittals at: This does include Pretreatment Annual reports and Whole Effluent Toxicity Tests (WET Tests). We will temporarily accept them during the peacetime emergency.

Follow these easy steps:

This process can be used for all permit submittals other than the permit application and check. Those should still be submitted through regular mail.

The MPCA will continue to process regular mail received through the U.S. Postal Service and other delivery services. If you are mailing large files on an electronic device, for example permit applications, please send on a thumb (flash) drive rather than a CD.

All Project Priority List (PPL) applications should continue to be submitted to:

If you have any questions about which documents can be submitted electronically or the process, please contact your assigned MPCA data manager or compliance staff person.

If you need help with eDMRs

For help with eDMRs and other compliance issues, please contact your assigned MPCA data manager or compliance staff person. Or you can find easy to follow instructions on our website