MPCA SSTS Bulletin

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SSTS Bulletin

August 2014


2013 SSTS Annual Report Factoid: One quarter of septic systems in Minnesota new/updated since 2002

Over the past 12 years, local programs reported more than146,400 SSTS construction permits were issued.  This means more than 26 percent of septic systems in Minnesota are of recent construction. Modern systems are designed to both treat and disperse sewage into the soil to protect our health and the environment. Of the 146,400 construction permits issued, more than 72,000 were for replacement systems, which represents an estimated 4.96 billion gallons of sewage per year.

The number of estimated compliant systems has increased over the years, from 334,500 systems in 2007 to 427,000 systems in 2013. This means 30 billion gallons of wastewater each year are being treated by homes with septic systems that meet current requirements.

In 2013, 232 local programs reported approximately 534,000 septic systems in Minnesota. They reported issuing 8,911 construction permits for both new and replacement systems and 296 SSTS repair permits for a grand total of 9,207 construction permits.

The highest number of SSTS in 2013 was reported in St. Louis County at 34,259 systems. The fewest number of SSTS was reported in Traverse County at 581. In 2013, the highest number of construction permits was issued by St. Louis County with 570 permits. The fewest number of construction permits was issued by Mahnomen County with four permits.

Minnesota has a goal of creating an inventory of all septic systems in the state, and identifying and correcting systems that do not protect human health and the environment. "The work counties are doing to identify where septic systems are, how well they are working and the soil conditions at the sites is very important," says Jim Ziegler, manager of the MPCA SSTS unit. "This helps us decide where we need to focus resources to best protect human health and the environment." He said that includes identifying areas with a high water table and where soils are not conducive to treating septic waste.

Ziegler pointed out that the process of replacing and upgrading septic systems will always be ongoing since they have a finite lifespan. A well-designed and maintained system can last more than 30 years but eventually will need to be replaced, he said.

The 2013 SSTS Annual Report for Minnesota will be available soon.

Grants help counties raise SSTS compliance rates, assist low-income homeowners


In a continuing effort to assist county SSTS programs, the MPCA works with the Legislature to secure funding to support and enhance the work counties do to promote effective sewage treatment.

In July, the MPCA awarded grants to counties for the following related SSTS activities: 

  1. administration of local SSTS programs,
  2. special projects to improve SSTS compliance rates and
  3. assistance to low-income homeowners to upgrade their  systems.

The Legislature provided funds for county base grants of $18,600/year and incentive grants for counties that have adopted ‘triggers’ to promote SSTS compliance or are implementing special projects to improve compliance.

Funding was also made available for grants to low-income homeowners to help them bring their septic systems into compliance. 

Just over $450,000 was granted to counties that are working to improve compliance by adopting compliance inspection triggers when a property is sold or a property owner applies for any type of permit. Others are improving record-keeping and conducting septic system inventories. Over $985,000 dollars was granted to counties to assist low-income homeowners with SSTS upgrades.

Sixty-two of 86 eligible counties submitted grant applications this year. Of these, 40 qualified by requiring compliance inspections triggered by a property sale and 13 qualified by requiring inspections any time a home owner applies for a permit. Twenty three counties received money for having plans to improve compliance and 37 counties received low income fix-up funds.

Another area where the MPCA is able to support county SSTS programs is by providing grants for work done by advanced inspectors on systems designed to handle more than 2,500 gallons per day. These grants reimburse the county for 75% of the cost of this work, whether it is done by county staff or licensed Advanced Inspectors hired by the county. Currently, there are 19 counties participating in this grant program. The application period for this grant is currently open. Contact Aaron Jensen for more information as well as the MPCA website.

The advanced inspector grants are distributed by the MPCA. All other grants flow to counties through the Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) Natural Resources Block Grants (NRBG). There will be additional funding available in FY16 for the add-on competitive grants.