MPCA On Point newsletter April 2021

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On Point: News and updates for wastewater discharge permit holders

April 2021 edition

eServices experiencing technical difficulties, working to resolve them soon

The MPCA eServices environment has been experiencing ongoing intermittent outages. If you have issues while trying to submit DMRs, please continue trying and if all else fails, please reach out to your assigned data manager or compliance staff person. Thank you for your patience as we work to get this service back up and running as soon as possible. 

MPCA, Minnesota leaders seek help to prepare for extreme weather


In a series of virtual press conferences, MPCA Commissioner Laura Bishop, along with mayors, other local officials and state legislators are making the case for a $2.9 million proposal to help counties, cities, townships, and tribal governments plan and prepare for the impacts of our changing climate.

Increasing precipitation and more frequent and intense rain events are amplifying flood risks throughout the state, overburdening our aging and inadequate water infrastructure. As part of Governor Walz’s proposed budget for the next biennium, these funds would enable the MPCA to assist up to 15 communities each year with risk assessment, planning and pre-design needed to improve stormwater and wastewater infrastructure.

The conferences are being streamed and saved on the MPCA’s YouTube channel.

This story appeared in many media outlets following the session focused on northwest Minnesota with officials from Moorhead, Fergus Falls and other locations in the region.  

Your health and wastewater treatment are important; Vaccine Connector/Vaccine Locator can help you protect both


Governor Walz has announced that all Minnesotans 16 years of age and older are eligible for COVID-19 vaccination. Wastewater treatment is an essential service and we encourage you to get vaccinated to protect your health and at the same time help assure operations that maintain this important community service across the state.

Sign up for the COVID-19 Vaccine Connector to get updates on vaccine opportunities. When there is an opportunity nearby, the Connector tells you how to find an appointment. Minnesotans can now sign up for the Connector in four languages: English, Spanish, Hmong, and Somali.

How to sign up

  • Go to
  • To choose your preferred language, use the button in the top right corner of the screen.
  • There is no cost to signing up. Health insurance and personal ID forms are not required.
  • All you need to provide is basic information such as contact information, demographic data, medical history, and employment to determine vaccine opportunities right for you.

Vaccine Locator also available The Vaccine Connector is a fast and easy way to find out when, where, and how to get your COVID-19 vaccine. But it is not the only way. You can also use the Vaccine Locator Map to find local vaccine providers in your area.

First virtual wastewater conference gets rave reviews


After months of planning, learning new software, working with stakeholders, and even debating whether or not to have a 2021 conference, the MPCA held the very first virtual Annual Wastewater and Collections Conference March 16-17. Feedback indicates the format was a great success.

More than 400 participated by watching presentations delivered by industry professionals, interacting with vendors and colleagues, and earning contact hours.

A common limitation for in-person conferences in the past was participants had to choose between concurrent sessions, often wishing they could attend more than one at a given time. Attendees of this conference are able to go back into the event host website (Pheedloop) through April 30th and watch recorded sessions they may have missed. 

Conference attendees will earn 12 credits for their participation during the March 16-17 event and can earn up to 4 more credits by exploring additional sessions on the conference website through April 30th. We will be using timestamp records to manage this. Do not expect more than 12 hours of contact hours if you explored additional sessions during the conference.

Participants were asked to complete an on-line survey which had a completion rate of 44%, nearly double that of the survey handed out at the 2019 in-person conference. The Certification and Training Unit is learning much about wastewater operator wants and needs from the survey and will use this feedback to structure the program moving forward.

One thing that stands out in the survey results is that a majority of operators are in favor of a hybrid learning approach once the pandemic is over, which would include both in-person and virtual training events.

Other takeaways:

  • We received 14 pages of suggestions for future content that we will use to shape the program moving forward.

  • Only 15% want to see an “all-virtual” conference in the future, while over 25% of respondents stated they want to return to the all in-person format. The vast majority of respondents have asked for a hybrid model for future conferences.

  • Nearly 90% of participants want the MPCA to continue connecting operators to online learning opportunities.

Survey results will be posted in the announcements page of the Pheedloop platform and on the Wastewater Training and Certification webpage. 

Reminder: Certification period extended through Dec. 31

Wastewater operators are reminded that certifications scheduled to expire between March 13, 2020, and December 31, 2021, will not lapse as a result of course cancellations or COVID-19 related restrictions. This date may be reassessed at a later date.

Individuals with certifications that would expire during this timeframe will not be required to retest. Wastewater professionals will still be responsible for obtaining required continuing education hours within one year of when training becomes available again.

MPCA recognizes 292 facilities for excellence in wastewater operations


This year the MPCA is presenting its Wastewater Treatment Facility Operation Awards to 292 facilities. These awards are given to facilities that meet strict qualification criteria including completing all required sampling/monitoring required in their permits, ensuring compliance with all permit effluent limits, submitting all required reports on time, and abiding by other requirements of the permit. These facilities do exceptional work to ensure proper operation of their treatment plants which in turn results in cleaner, swimmable, fishable water for Minnesotans to enjoy.  

Congratulations to this year’s award winners and thank you for your commitment to excellent facility operations and permit compliance. Visit the awards page to search for award recipients by name. 

Facility award certificates will be mailed to recipients this week.

Click here or on the photo to hear a special message to wastewater operators from Governor Walz.

Watch in May for important survey to help identify community needs for wastewater infrastructure

The MPCA is beginning the process of completing the Wastewater Infrastructure Needs Survey (WINS) and Report as required by Minnesota law (statute 115.03, sub. 9). This survey assesses the current condition and future needs of Minnesota’s publicly owned wastewater treatment and conveyance infrastructure. The survey results help determine what Minnesota communities require to address their wastewater needs, and what role the state of Minnesota will play in providing resources and assistance. 

You should expect to receive an email in May that contains a link to the WINS survey. Below are some quick facts about the survey:

  • You may forward the survey email on to others to fill out portions of the survey.
  • You may save your work and exit the survey at any time; however, once survey portions are submitted, you may not go back into them.
  • Data from the 2019 WINS will populate the survey so you will only need to provide updates to that data or answer new questions for 2021.
  • A detailed instruction document will be included with the survey.

Thank you for your continued participation in the electronic WINS process. For more information, contact Cara Omana at the MPCA: 651-757-2891 or .

Spring is in the air. So is preparing for flooding


Spring is known as flood season for many wastewater treatment facilities. Make sure you are prepared by having spare pumps, generators, sand bags, and other equipment on hand, along with spare sample bottles in case of an unplanned release. Every wastewater permit issued by the MPCA includes requirements to maintain appropriate backup equipment and to collect representative samples of an unplanned release of wastewater.

Note on sample bottles

Many wastewater facilities receive sample bottles from contract laboratories which in turn are shipped back to the lab for analysis. Wastewater facilities should make sure they have enough spare sample bottles on hand, which may require contacting the lab to make arrangements. Please note that some sample bottles and/or preservatives may have expiration dates. So check bottle expiration dates at least twice per year and ask the lab how to store the bottles to maximize their use time.

Facilities should be prepared to analyze a release minimally for total suspended solids, fecal coliform and the other parameters listed on this MPCA wastewater release sampling report. Note that your facility’s specific permit may require parameters to be analyzed in addition to those listed on the form.

Is it an overflow or a bypass? A refresher on terms

Check here to refresh your understanding of terms, as well as what to do in the event of a release or bypass.

Additional resources on flooding preparation and response

New! MPCA offering a grant for chloride reduction from water softening activities


The MPCA is offering a new Chloride Reduction grant for the development of a project that provides direct assistance to upgrade and optimize water-softening systems in targeted communities with elevated chloride levels in surface waters or wastewater discharge.

Application deadline: May 7, 2021, by 4:00 p.m.

Funding: The grant award is $200,000 (requires a 25% minimum match). The grant will be awarded to a single applicant.

Eligible applicants:

  • Businesses under 500 employees
  • Governmental agencies
  • Educational institutions
  • Tribal Entities
  • Nongovernmental organizations (e.g., nonprofit or industry association)
  • Applicants must have relevant experience working on chloride’s impacts to water resources and basic knowledge of water softening systems
  • Applicants must have experience successfully implementing environmental projects or programs working with a variety of partners

Project goal: Award an organization that will lead a chloride reduction project within a selected community in need of chloride reduction. This organization will partner with community members and local experts to develop a strategy to identify high local chloride discharge sources and then assist those targeted local businesses and/or industries to upgrade or optimize existing water softening systems. Upon completion, the grant awardee will track the water softening changes made and then determine the estimated chloride reductions the project has achieved.

For grant application materials and more, visit the MPCA Chloride Reduction Grants webpage

MPCA staff publish new study on reducing chloride pollution

salt study

MPCA staffers Baishali Bakshi, Elise Doucette and Scott J. Kyser recently published a study estimating the annual and lifetime costs of three alternative solutions for reducing chloride pollution in Minnesota:

  • Centralized softening (lime or reverse-osmosis)
  • Home-based softening with end of pipe treatment
  • Business as usual or baseline option.

The authors found that centralized softening to be the more cost effective option in the range of 1:3-1:4 with additional environmental and public health benefits.

The study was published by PLOS, the Public Library of Science, and is available on their website. The authors are planning a white paper version of the study they plan to roll out later this year.

Report highlights MPCA/cities’ collaborative efforts on permitting, water quality improvement


In January, the MPCA published the 2021 report to the Legislature on NPDES/SDS Permits, Water Quality Standards, and Municipalities. Among other things, the report is intended to foster awareness of and engagement in MPCA initiatives that may affect municipalities, and promote coordination and dialogue between the MPCA and municipalities on permitting and water quality improvement efforts.

Two good examples/outcomes of how the agency strives for coordination and dialogue with municipal stakeholders are the Clean Water Discussion Series and the water quality trading review team and initiative.

“The discussion series was begun in the fall of 2019 and gives municipal stakeholders a significant voice and impact on how we shape our policies,” says Joel Peck, the MPCA’s municipal liaison.  “It’s an opportunity to get them all in the same room and talk about issues. We’ve had some really great conversations about water quality trading, and the group recently had an opportunity to review the sanitary sewer overflow legislation and to help shape the language to something they could implement."

The discussion group meets quarterly (virtually since the pandemic) and includes representatives from the League of Minnesota Cities, the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities, the Minnesota Rural Water Association, MESERB, and several other organizations.

Water quality trading

The water quality trading initiative provides permitted entities flexibility in meeting pollutant reductions by working with another entity or landowners within the watershed that may be able to achieve pollutant reductions at less cost (see next story). As with the discussion group series, the water quality trading tool was developed in coordination with stakeholders.

The report to the Legislature includes several other examples of the agency’s outreach/coordination efforts as well as updates on:

  • Municipal wastewater permits and new effluent limits
  • Water quality standards development and
  • New innovative approaches

MPCA’s new guide to water quality trading

MPCA recently published a detailed guide to water quality trading in Minnesota, available on the agency web site. Water quality trading is a market-based tool for achieving improved water quality. Trading provides a mechanism and legal framework for regulated sources of wastewater and stormwater to form watershed-based water quality restoration and protection partnerships.

The agency is seeking to increase water-quality trading in the state to provide more flexibility and cost savings to permittees, reduce pollution from all sources, and achieve greater environmental benefits than using regulatory measures alone. Learn more on the MPCA Water quality trading web pages.

In one example of a trading project, the City of Princeton stabilized bluffs and banks along the Rum River (including the stretch pictured below near a middle school) to prevent erosion and offset discharges from its wastewater treatment plant.


Owatonna proposing wastewater expansion, pollutant reductions


To accommodate a growing population and reduce pollution in several rivers, the City of Owatonna in southern Minnesota is proposing to expand and upgrade its wastewater treatment facility while at the same time reducing the amount of phosphorus and hexavalent chromium it discharges to the nearby Straight River. The environmental assessment worksheet for the expansion and the draft wastewater permit are both open for public comment until 4:30 p.m. May 3. For more information, visit the MPCA website.

Wipes labeling bill raised in MN House


Rep. Peter Fischer (DFL-Maplewood) introduced Minnesota House File 914 this legislative session that would establish labeling requirements for disposable wipes sold in the state. In essence, the bill would require:

  • Manufacturers prove with scientific studies that their wipes disperse sufficiently fast to be deemed "flushable."
  • For products not proven “flushable,” the bill would require manufacturers to follow the most recent Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry (INDA) code of practice for product labeling that has been approved by the MPCA. This code requires a “do not flush” logo on wipes products.

Washington State first to require "Do Not Flush" labels on unflushables

Meanwhile, in 2020, Washington state became the first in the U.S. to adopt a law on labeling for disposable wipes. In short, the law mandates a “do not flush” logo on non-flushable wipes packaging. For more information, visit the National Association of Clean Water Agencies website.


Help your community have a clog-free spring and summer

With spring here and summer on the way, Minnesotans will be enjoying traditions such as cookouts, etc. And they may be tempted to drain grease from pots and pans down the sink, or stock up on disposable wipes, including those labeled “flushable” for easy cleanups.

This is a good time for communities to remind their consumers of “No grease down the sinks and no wipes down the pipes” via social media posts, programming on cable access channels, or news release. For ideas, video programs and templates, visit the MPCA’s Wipes Clog Pipes toolkit online.

Blasing named wastewater program manager


Nicole Blasing moved into the Municipal Division's wastewater program manager position in January.

Throughout her 17 years of working at the MPCA Blasing has gained broad experience, specifically within the Municipal wastewater program, holding roles within compliance and enforcement, NPDES/SDS permit writing, and assisting in NPDES/SDS permit work related to impaired waters, TMDLs, and WRAPS.

In 2014, she was hired as a supervisor in the Municipal Division for the SSTS Unit (1 year) and went on to supervise the North Central Regional Wastewater Unit for 5 years. More recently she had served as the North Watershed Section Manager in the Watershed Division, where she had been overseeing the WRAPS and TMDL work in the Upper Mississippi, Lake Superior, Rainy/Lake of the Woods, and Red River Basins.

"Nicole has a huge range of experience in the water media, and a passion for the wastewater program in particular," says Dana Vanderbosch, Municipal Division director. "We are excited that she will bring this knowledge and experience to the Wastewater Program Manager position."

Minnesotans weighing need for water quality standards changes

water standards

The federal government requires all states to conduct a regular review of water quality standards to decide which standards to revise or develop. This is called the triennial standards review, as it is completed every three years. The MPCA is holding its review right now. The public comment period recently ended. For more information, visit these webpages:

No Exposure Exclusion certification now obtained through e-Services

Historically, “No Exposure certification” was included as a chapter in individual wastewater permits.

Individual permittees that qualify for No Exposure are now required to obtain a No Exposure certification through the MPCA’s e-Services system. The MPCA anticipates offering training sessions on this topic and will be contacting affected facilities in the near future to offer assistance.  

Actions you can take now:

  1. Review your individual permit and determine if it contains a No Exposure exclusion. Note, if you have a No Exposure exclusion you will not have a sector-specific industrial stormwater chapter in your permit.
  2. Add the “General Permit and No Exposure Certification Application” to your “Services Not Requiring Facilities” page in e-Services by clicking on the configure services button.
    • No Exposure Certification: If you are seeking to re-certify No Exposure conditions at your facility, follow pages 2-4 and 22-30 in the guidance titled, “Industrial Stormwater e-Services Guidance” located at:
    • Upon completion of your No Exposure Certification, please wait 48 hours and then go to our data driven webpage: Search for your facility by entering your No Exposure number in the Permit ID box and setting the permit status to “either.”
    • If you have re-certified No Exposure, you may print the facility details page for your records.

If you have questions or would like assistance, please contact Craig Weingart at 218-302-6650 or

Upcoming MPCA Smart Salting Certification Trainings


Parking Lots & Sidewalks

Learn practical, more efficient winter maintenance practices for parking lots and sidewalks - that can help save on costs and time, while minimizing environmental impacts.

Who: Private maintenance companies, public and private property owners that maintain their own surfaces or hire maintenance contractors, such as city parks, hospitals and colleges.

When: Tuesday, April 27, 2021 Register HERE hosted by Nine Mile Creek Watershed District

Property Management 

Learn how to reduce costly indoor and outdoor infrastructure damage to your properties caused by salt use, know if your maintenance crew is using sustainable practices, discuss liability/regulation issues, resources for managing customer expectations, and more.

Who: Management-level property managers, business owners, environmental professionals, MS4 permit staff, public works directors and local government decision-makers


  1. Tuesday, May 11, 2021 Register HERE hosted by Nine Mile Creek and Riley Purgatory Bluff Creek Watershed Districts
  2. Tuesday, June 8, 2021 Register for this date by emailing Angela Bourdaghs hosted by the MPCA

Roads Training

Learn how to integrate science with practical winter maintenance on roads while minimizing impacts on the environment. Covers technical aspects such as application rates, calibration, using weather conditions to more accurately plan and apply, converting to de-icing and anti-icing, storage and more. 

Who: City, county, or state plow drivers

When: Tuesday, May 18, 2021 Register HERE hosted by Nine Mile Creek Watershed District and the City of Minnetonka

Questions about trainings? Contact MPCA Smart Salting Training Coordinator Angela Bourdaghs or 651-757-2176.

Pace closes WET lab in Duluth

Pace Analytical Inc. has announced closure of the WET lab at their Duluth location effective Jan. 1, 2021. Permittees that used the Pace Duluth location for Acute or Chronic Whole Effluent Toxicity will need to make arrangements with an alternate laboratory. While there are a number of WET laboratories only a few remain local. 

As a reminder, acute and chronic toxicity samples that are not hand delivered to the laboratory on the day they were collected must arrive on ice within 36 hours and cannot exceed a temperature of 6oC.

Early planning is advised to find a laboratory and shipping courier to meet sample temperature and holding time requirements. The MPCA cannot endorse a particular laboratory but the list below includes known laboratories that perform WET analysis for MN permits. Direct questions or concerns regarding WET compliance and/or locating a laboratory to Dann White with the MPCA at 651-757-2820 or


eDMR news

What to do following a newly issued NPDES/SDS permit


Did you recently receive a newly issued NPDES/SDS permit?  If so, follow the steps below when navigating e-Services to successfully submit your DMRs:

  • Be aware of the new permit effective dates on the DMR Permit Selection screen. Select the effective date range for the monitoring period of the DMR you are trying to submit.
    • For example, if you are in the process of submitting February 2021 DMRs, and your new permit is reissued, March 1, 2021, you will need to select the old effective dates that include the February 2021 monitoring period.
    • When you are submitting data for the March 2021 monitoring period, you will need to select the new effective dates in the DMR Permit Selection screen that includes the March 2021 monitoring period.
  • If it is your practice to use a previously saved Sample Values Spreadsheet to enter and submit daily reported values to eServices, you will need to download a new Sample Values Spreadsheet from eServices for the first reporting period of your newly issued NPDES/SDS permit.

Failure to follow these steps following receipt of your reissued NPDES/SDS permit will result in errors in the uploaded file and you will not be able to submit your DMR.


DMR webpage & guidance document updates

We’ve been busy updating the DMR webpage and some guidance documents. One update in particular you should take a look at is the MPCA Wastewater Permit User’s Manual. This document complements the NPDES/SDS permits and contains information that will help answer questions about many topics -- permit applications, sampling required to meet limits, monitoring requirements, definitions of terms used in permits, and others. Download a version today!


The update of the MPCA Wastewater Permit User’s Manual has in turn retired the Guide to DMRs and NPDES Data Reporting Memo. These are out of date and no longer effective in guiding the management and submittal of DMRs and data. Please access additional guidance documents on the DMR webpage for assistance with management and submittal. You can also contact your assigned Compliance person or a data manager, locate the Contact section of the DMR webpage, and use the new tool that will give you facility specific results.

eDMR tip: Amending DMRs online? Watch out for missing values!

Please be aware that some data may be getting accidentally removed from boxes on the DMR if you are amending using the Amend DMR online feature. Make sure to double and triple check that all the boxes are populated on every station. If they are not, make sure to manually enter the data or include a comment as to why the data is missing. Make sure to pay close attention to the error reports if you get one while submitting. Contact your assigned data manager or MPCA compliance staff if you have questions.

Light rail stormwater project goes above and beyond


A construction project that spans nearly 15 miles and affects about 480 acres faces many challenges when it comes to controlling and managing stormwater runoff. The Southwest Green Line Light Rail Transit Extension (SWLRT) is such a project. So far, the project’s partners — Metropolitan Council, Lunda Construction and C.S. McCrossan — have been meeting those challenges to the benefit of surface waters along the construction corridor.

Wastewater in the news

Cybersecurity training

The Association of State Drinking Water Administrators (ASDWA) is partnering with the American Water Works Association to deliver virtual cybersecurity training (using Microsoft Teams) for states at no cost to state personnel. Attendance for each session is limited to 25 to optimize engagement. Spots are still available for May and June sessions. Sessions last about 2.5 hours. 

You can register for this training here . After registering, you will receive an immediate confirmation via email. A separate calendar invitation for the session you selected will follow, including connection information. If you have any questions about this training or the logistics, please contact Anthony DeRosa ( or Kevin Letterly (