MPCA SSTS Bulletin

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SSTS Bulletin

February 2014

Extra help offered for pursuing advanced SSTS training

 By Nick Haig, MPCA

The MPCA is working with the University of Minnesota's Onsite Sewage Treatment Program (OSTP) to bolster the ranks of advanced professionals, especially in western Minnesota. Advanced professionals include those certified in any of the following specialty areas: Intermediate Design, Intermediate Inspection, Advanced Design, Advanced Inspection, and Service Provider.

If you are not already an Intermediate/Advanced SSTS Designer or Intermediate/Advanced SSTS Inspector, consider attending the Intermediate Design and Inspection course in Fergus Falls Feb. 11 – 14. You can enroll online or complete an enrollment form and send it to the University.

Due to low enrollment numbers, this course is in danger of being cancelled. OSTP is waiving the late fee for this course and will decide with the MPCA if enough enrollments have been received by Feb. 6 to host this course.

 Additional advanced certification courses are being offered in 2014:

  • Intermediate Design and Inspection in St. Cloud on March 18-21, 2014
  • Advanced Design and Inspection in Fergus Falls on April 15-18, 2014
  • Service Provider in Alexandria on Oct. 20-23, 2014

You can view the entire 2014 OSTP schedule online.

The MPCA/OSTP partnership provides support to those who may have struggled with or avoided taking advanced courses because of their difficulty. If you enroll in an advanced certification course in 2014, the University is offering no-cost, hands-on field training; free customized tutoring for all individuals that do not pass an advanced exam; and a no-cost course and examination retake through July of 2015.

Questions about the need or demand for these professionals prompted an evaluation of the SSTS program requirements. Following that evaluation, the MPCA stands behind the licensure and certification requirements for advanced professionals that became enforceable in 2012. Regional MPCA enforcement staff are investigating reports of work completed beyond that authorized by certification and/or licensure. The following article outlines specific requirements for various types of SSTS work.

Who can do what SSTS work depends on certification/training

By Nick Haig, MPCA

The SSTS Program is built on a spectrum that increases certification and licensure requirements as a system’s design flow and/or technological complexity increases.

Design and Inspection

Basic Designers and Inspectors can work on Types I – III (Standard – Other) systems and gravity collection systems serving residential strength waste with a design flow of up to 2,500 gpd.

Intermediate Designers and Intermediate Inspectors must first be fully certified as a Basic Designer and/or Inspector. In addition to the Basic authorizations, they can design and/or inspect systems serving residential strength waste with Type IV technologies (Performance) and a design flow up to 2,500 gpd.

Advanced Designers and Advanced Inspectors can design and inspect all subsurface sewage treatment systems (Type I – Type V) and gravity or pressure collection systems serving residential or high strength waste with a design flow up to 10,000 gpd. Type V SSTS require the expertise of an appropriately licensed AELSLAGID professional.

An Intermediate or Advanced Inspector must also attend and pass the Service Provider class, which teaches participants about the relationship between management and compliance. Learn more online about the SSTS Design and Inspection Spectrum.

Service Provider

Certification and/or licensure in the Service Provider specialty area is required if you:

  • provide management services for any systems with a pretreatment device (either Type IV system or a pre-2008 system with pretreatment),
  • provide management services for collection systems on SSTS with design flows greater than 2,500 gallons per day,
  • conduct sampling or interpretation of SSTS operational performance, or
  • assess or adjust a timed-dosing schedule without a design.                                                                                                                      

Professional working on behalf of local governments

Qualified Employees or licensed inspection businesses that review designs, issue permits, and inspect systems on behalf of a local program play a critical role with these systems. They must:

  • be appropriately certified as a basic, intermediate, or advanced inspector based on the design flow and technological complexity of the system, and
  • verify the certified statement of the system designer and ensure that all SSTS work within its jurisdiction is completed by an appropriately licensed business.

The SSTS Search Tool is the exclusive location for identifying valid SSTS certification and licensure. This database is updated daily. Please notify MPCA SSTS regional staff if you suspect someone is working without a license or outside of their authorizations.

Certification and Licensing, MPCA

Education and Training, University of Minnesota

SSTS dos/donts especially important in group home stettings


By Sara Heger,
University of Minnesota Onsite Wastewater Treatment Program

Adult foster homes provide assisted-living services—including nursing and 24/7 care— for individuals requiring special medical and behavioral needs. Wastewater from these homes, and the corresponding effects on conventional onsite sewage treatment systems, likely differs from average residential sources but the difference is not fully understood.

According to Chisago County Sanitarian Kellie Strobel, “In the past few years Chisago County has experienced failing septic systems at group homes. Most of the homes were single family homes that were purchased and changed into group homes. We approached the University of Minnesota to see if they would be interested in a research project with Chisago County to determine why these homes were failing." Kellie is shown in the photo visiting one of the facilities.

During the course of the study, several issues were observed that likely contribute to decreased septic system performance and operation at the properties. Wastewater characteristics, onsite practices, and septic system attributes varied considerably between sites. Nonetheless, common conclusions can be drawn and remedial actions recommended for improved system performance and stability at all sites.

Recommendations include limiting water usage by installing water saving devices, limiting the use of personal care products, cleaners and sanitizers; using natural cleaners; and educating staff and residents about proper disposal of non-organic material. 

In addition, many of the systems need updating to meet current treatment and dispersal requirements. When upgrades are made on these facilities, the addition of advanced treatment should be considered to assist in the removal of pharmaceuticals, personal care products and organic material prior to the soil treatment area.

More detailed information on this study can be found on the U of M website.