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On Point: News and updates for wastewater discharge permit holders

December 2020 edition

St. Cloud, Pipestone projects garner EPA’s top awards for innovation, excellence in protecting environment, health


The cities of St. Cloud and Pipestone have received special recognition for water infrastructure projects which the EPA says demonstrate the highest levels of innovation and excellence in capturing nutrients, generating renewable energy, and reducing nutrients and chloride in our lakes, rivers and streams. The projects were nominated by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and Minnesota Public Facilities Authority (PFA).

Read the full story on the MPCA home page.

Have a water infrastructure project that needs funding? Here’s how to apply

The St. Cloud and Pipestone projects received a combination of federal and state funds for their projects. The first step cities need to take to become eligible for that funding is to apply to get their proposed projects on one of two state infrastructure project priority lists, either the Project Priority List (PPL) or the Intended Use Plan list (IUP). Now is the time to do that.

The two state revolving fund (SRF) programs are administered by the Minnesota Public Facilities Authority (PFA), together with the MPCA and Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). The PFA provides low interest loans or grants to local governments for eligible projects based on priorities determined by the MPCA (for wastewater and stormwater projects) and the MDH (for drinking water projects).

Deadlines are listed below for the PPLs and IUPs:

 Project Priority List – Clean Water Revolving Fund 

  • Wastewater and stormwater projects
  • Deadline: On or before March 5, 2021 to MPCA
    • PPL application and scoring worksheet (Including supporting documentation, as required)
    • Wastewater facilities plans
  • Stormwater project plans, contact: Bill Dunn, MPCA 651-757-2324,

Project Priority List – Drinking Water Revolving Fund

Intended Use Plans – Both Clean Water and Drinking Water Funds

  • Specify which program on submission
  • Deadline: June 4, 2021 to Public Facilities Authority, contact: Becky Sabie, PFA 651-259-7470,

System owners must request that their projects be placed on the appropriate 2022 IUP if they expect to be ready for construction and are seeking SRF financing in state fiscal year 2022 (July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022). 

Social distancing no barrier to farm-city partnership on environment

With farm and city life, “social distancing” is nothing new. Ironically, it may have helped bridge the gap at the second Ag-Urban Partnership Forum on Water Quality held Dec. 16, drawing nearly 250 attendees to the event held online due to the pandemic. Participants heard farmers and science experts describe the trust, communication, partnership, and innovation needed among agriculture and cities to collaborate on meeting the challenges of land use, water quality, and climate. Learn more about the forum on the MPCA website. In a related effort, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz recently announced a goal of enrolling 1 million acres in the Minnesota Ag Water Quality Certification Program that helps protect the state’s water resources. For more information, see this news release.

Compliance Tip: Be sure to calibrate flow monitoring equipment

Typically, National Pollution Discharge Elimination System and State Disposal System (NPDES/SDS) permits require flow monitoring equipment to be calibrated and/or checked twice annually. Below are a few considerations to assist in complying with this requirement:

  • Calibrations and/or checks can be performed in-house or by a qualified third party
  • Permit holders performing in-house checks should have a logical and defined procedure
  • Records documenting the calibrations shall be maintained for at least three years

For helpful information, see these online resources:

Year-end submittals: Send in Water Quality Submittals electronically

This is a reminder to send in all your year-end submittals electronically to the electronic WQ Submittals at:

Follow these easy steps:

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

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

eDMRs: How to report parameters with no results, including chlorine


Did you chlorinate this monitoring period? If not, follow the instructions below:

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

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 comment reported on the eDMR. Violations will appear if not including a note.

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 assigned data manager.

Manage DMR service screen enhancement in eServices

You will now be able to access the most recent submittals first under the “Submitted Sample Value Spreadsheet” and “Submitted DMR” sections. No more scrolling through pages of submittals to find what you just submitted!

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. (Note the federal reports are only for municipal facilities, not industrial facilities.)

Facilities that fall into the above category will need to submit an annual biosolids report to the MPCA by Dec. 31, 2020, and an annual report to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by Feb. 19, 2021. Both of these reports will be based on the cropping year.

For questions with the federal report, contact EPA’s help desk: or 1-877-227-8965. Additional information regarding the federal report can be found at: EPA Biosolids Annual Program Report .

All municipal facilities in Minnesota that manage biosolids are required to submit a biosolids annual report by Dec. 31, 2020. Please note that even if you didn’t land apply during the 2020 cropping year, a biosolids annual report still needs to be submitted.

State reports must also be submitted electronically

Submit the state biosolids annual report electronically by e-mail. For the cover letter, use the form at this link (note, clicking on this link will download a file to your computer): Water Quality Submittals Form. Email both the cover letter and report to:

Contact Sherry Bock of the MPCA at 218-316-3882 or or Cole Huggins at 218-316-3928 or with any questions.

Wastewater training calendar updated for first half of 2021

The wastewater training calendar for the first half of 2021 is available on the Wastewater Operators Training and Certification webpage. The 2021 Training Calendar is announcing only the first six months of the calendar year in order to stay flexible and accommodate potential impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. These sessions are primarily online (virtual/webinar-based) training events. 

The calendar is subject to change as the pandemic evolves and reflects up-to-date cancellations, rescheduling, and event changes. Information about how to register for events is also posted at this link. Direct questions about how to register for wastewater training events to Annaliza Heesch.

EPA requiring additional information for chloride variance requests


If requested by a city and approved by the EPA, chloride variances may be added to permits for wastewater treatment facilities in Minnesota in order to focus on source reduction efforts as opposed to prohibitively expensive treatment technology.

During 2020, the MPCA requested and received approval from the EPA for chloride variances in two municipal wastewater permits (for the cities of Avon and Alexandria). Since then, the EPA has requested the MPCA gather more information about chloride sources from municipalities before they can request a variance. Facilities that have already submitted variance applications will be hearing from us in the near future about additional information they may need to provide.

For cities that are considering applying for a chloride variance or that need to reduce chloride under a schedule of compliance, the MPCA has developed extensive guidance they can use to identify and evaluate likely sources. Please visit our Chloride for Permit Holders webpage. Here, you can access our Strategy for municipal chloride source identification and reduction.

Some common chloride sources are food processors, laundromats, car washes, breweries, municipal storage sheds, and metal plating/metal finishing operations. However, the biggest problem is often water softeners. Therefore, start with the biggest sources of water softening in your city and those over which you have control (municipal sources). 

Visit our statewide chloride resources website for available resources, tool, and assistance for reducing chloride. There you will find the latest water softening rebate guide and other resources you may find helpful. Also check out our Smart Salting training program to learn how to reduce salt from de-icing activities.

Collection system and wastewater conferences set for March 16-17, 2021

The MPCA will hold the 46th annual Collection Systems and 83rd annual Wastewater Operations conferences virtually via Pheedloop on the dates of March 16-17, 2021. The conference brochure and registration packet will be available on the MPCA Wastewater Training webpage in January 2021.

If you would like to be involved in the planning the Virtual 2021 Annual Conference, please contact Marc Weikert.

Upcoming exam sessions

In person exam sessions will be held at the Marriott Northwest in Brooklyn Park on the following date:

  • March 25, 2021 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. Exam application postmark date is March 10.

In person Exam Refreshers for Collection System Operators (Class SA, SB, SC, SD) and Wastewater Operators (Class A, B, C, D) will be held at the Marriott Northwest in Brooklyn Park on March 23-24.

Venue information: Marriott Northwest, Brooklyn Park, 7025 Northland Dr N (763-536-8300).

For more information, contact Tracy Finch at 651-757-2103.

January/February Smart Salting training opportunities


There are five online smart salting learning/training opportunities scheduled for January and February. 

WI Salt Awareness Week
January 11-15, 2021
Tune in from 12:30-1 p.m. daily as experts dive into the true cost of salt on our drinking water, pets, freshwater ecosystems, and more.

MPCA Smart Salting for Roads Certification Training 
January 19, 2021 -- Online through WebEx
8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. - No cost to attend
Registration required: There is a 50 device limit. Multiple people can watch from the same device, but must be included in registration.  

MPCA Smart Salting for Parking Lots & Sidewalks Certification Training
Host organizations: Nine Mile Creek Watershed District and Riley Purgatory Bluff Creek Watershed District
January 20,2021, 9 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. -- Online through WebEx
Cost: $25, registration required

MPCA Smart Salting for Property Management Certification Training
Host organizations: Nine Mile Creek Watershed District and Riley Purgatory Bluff Creek Watershed District
February 3, 2021, 9 a.m. - 1 p.m. -- Online through WebEx
Cost: $25, registration required

MPCA Smart Salting for Parking Lots & Sidewalks Certification Training
February 9, 2021, 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. -- Online through WebEx
There is no cost to attend, registration required. There is a 50 device limit. Multiple people can watch from the same device, but must be included in registration.

Questions? Contact Angela Bourdaghs or 651-757-2176 

Wastewater in the news