MPCA SSTS Bulletin

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SSTS Bulletin

March 2015


SSTS Talking Tour draws 93 to 13 meetings across the state


The 2015 MPCA SSTS Talking Tour was again a success, drawing 93 SSTS stakeholders to 13 meetings across the state with members of the MPCA SSTS program. There were 81 Local Governmental Units represented out of a total of 259 that administer SSTS programs.

The MPCA holds these meetings to collect feedback and ideas on the Minnesota SSTS program from those who administer the program in counties, cities and townships. Participants shared 107 comments with the Talking Tour team. The majority of comments were addressed at the meetings with no further action required but some require some sort of followup.

For example, stakeholders have mixed feelings about the current tank installation fee of $25 per tank installed. Some at the meetings felt the fee should be raised to $35 and apply to the entire system. They cited the amount of book-keeping required to process these fees as well as the time spent in resolving dependencies between the number of tanks the professional reports and information from the reporting entity. Others felt it should not be changed since those who are having only one tank installed would be paying more per tank than those who are installing systems with more than one tank.

Others mentioned the need to find additional ways to help home owners replace faulty septic systems when the household does not have sufficient income to cover those costs without hardship. They said many medium-income families also have a difficult time affording a new septic system.

Thanks again to all who attended. We look forward to seeing all of you again next year.

Want to use a tank not on the MPCA list? Get the facts (sheet)


The MPCA maintains a List of Registered Sewage Tanks on MPCA’s website. If you want to install a new sewage tank, it needs to be on this list. But what if a tank you want to install is not on the list, then what?

The rules recognize that modifications to registered tanks or "one of a kind tank" are allowed provided a licensed Professional Engineer signs off that the tank meets certain rule requirements AND the local permitting authority accepts it. An MPCA fact sheet describes these requirements.

Here are a few examples of where non-registered tanks could be used according to the guidelines in the fact sheet:

  • a large tank that is custom built for one system
  • a registered tank that needs to have the inlet location changed to accommodate a specific installation
  • a registered tank that needs to be repurposed from a septic tank to a pump tank or a pump tank to a holding tank or any other possible combinations
  • a tank that is reinforced to allow vehicle traffic over the tank.

Have a tank-related question?  Contact Corey Hower or 507-206-2603.

Helped by good record-keeping, Todd County SSTS inventory project finding, fixing bad septics in lake country


Todd County's SSTS inventory project is focused on finding, fixing bad septics in lake country in the southern end of the county.

An SSTS inventory project consists of evaluating every SSTS in a given area and then making sure that systems that pose a threat to water or human health get fixed or replaced within a certain timeframe. Counties have learned these inventory projects are one of the best ways to increase SSTS compliance rates.

Some counties prioritize this work by focusing their attention on systems located near lakes that could be impacted by deficient systems. That's the route being taken by Todd County just east of Alexandria.

Since beginning an inventory project in 2011, Todd County has evaluated 1571 systems on 13 lakes, including the largest lake in the county, Lake Osakis in the southwest, and smaller lakes in the southeast.

The compliance rate for 13 lakes inspected thus far is 94 percent. A total of 56 systems have been updated since the inventory began in 2011. Of the 1571 systems inspected, 99 still require updating. Four more lakes will receive sewer inspections in 2015.


Chris Arens (pictured at right) with the Todd County Planning and Zoning Department said conducting the inventory can be tricky in some areas where rocky soil makes it difficult to use an auger to get an accurate soil profile description, which is important when determining whether or not a system might be impacting ground water.

On the other hand, aiding the inventory project is the fact that Todd County has kept very good records since the late 1970s on septic installations and inspections. Arens said using this information makes it easier to determine where problem systems might exist based on date of installation. The records also aid in locating systems and determining the depth of the treatment area.

Extending courtesies helps with homeowner buy-in

Arens himself did the inspections for eight of the nine lake inventories since 2013 and says virtually all of the homeowners he worked with were friendly and accommodating. "I sent each of them a letter letting them know what I was planning to do and that they should let me know if they would like to be there when I performed the inspections," said Arens, who added many people appreciated learning about how their septic system works and the value of regular maintenance.

"One man told me he didn't think his tank had been pumped for maybe 10 years. I told him that getting his tank pumped on a regular basis, every three years or so, will help his drain field last longer and save him money in the long run," Arens said. "It's just like making sure you change the oil in your car on a regular basis if you want it to last a long time."

A shout out to MOWA, contractor for Whispers of Hope work

Like furnaces and foundations, septic systems aren’t the first thing people think about when remodeling. But working septic systems are critically important to our state's lakes and rivers and to protect our health from diseases in wastewater.

That’s why a $5,000 donation from the Minnesota Onsite Wastewater Association (MOWA) and services donated by Advanced Septic Solutions was such a big deal for Whispers of Hope, a rural Rice County women’s shelter. Whispers of Hope is a residential and non-residential counseling ministry serving young women who are struggling with difficult issues in their lives.

The donation and equipment helped Whispers of Hope install a new septic system that was required to meet the needs of the seven-acre facility.

Located near Northfield, Whispers opened in 2014, and the first residents arrived last July. The MOWA donation and contractor services provided by Tom Wirtzfeld and his crew at Advanced Septic Solutions in Northfield paid for a new septic system that will keep the facility in compliance with local county septic system requirements and protect nearby ground and surface water. The new system allows them to combine the residential home, a counseling shed and an activities barn into one complete system.

For the generous donation and effort, MPCA thanks MOWA and Tom Wirtzfeld and his crew at Advanced Septic Solutions for going above and beyond to protect water!

This barn, built in 1919, has been renovated by Whispers of Hope to offer concerts, worship, conferences, group counseling, arts and crafts, and fitness opportunities for its residents. It's one of the facilities now being served by a new septic system built with donations of time and money.