Areas and communities with SSTS concerns have wastewater treatment methods that are not adequate to protect public health or the environment. The situations range from failing individual systems to cities with inadequate collection and treatment infrastructure. Hundreds of small communities — clusters of homes and businesses in both incorporated and unincorporated areas — around the state have inadequate wastewater systems.

In 2008, the MPCA developed the Small Community Wastewater Strategy to address "straight pipes." Straight pipes collect sewage from several homes and businesses in small communities, or from just one, and discharge the untreated sewage directly to a lake or stream.