To highlight the need for investing in wastewater infrastructure, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) Commissioner John Linc Stine toured wastewater treatment plants across northern and north-central Minnesota in recent weeks.
“We’ve been doing visits like this for several years to put a spotlight on the real needs for investment in wastewater infrastructure across Minnesota,” says Stine. “My boss, Governor Dayton, has made long-term investment in rebuilding these facilities a high priority. He knows we can’t be committed to protecting clean water without also being committed to investing in the resources we need to protect it.”
Along with agency staff from municipal wastewater, water assessment and communications, Stine first visited treatment plants at Little Falls and Alexandria before viewing a drinking water treatment plant under construction in Morris. A week later Stine toured the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District (WLSSD) and the improved wastewater ponds in Moose Lake.
The tours emphasize the challenges facing small- and medium-sized communities trying to manage the short- and long-term costs of wastewater treatment, according to Stine. He also said the trips lead to media attention about this important, but often underreported, topic.
At Little Falls, Stine toured the city’s aging WWTP along with mayor Greg Zylka, city administrator Jon Radermacher and representatives from the Minnesota Rural Water Association. Little Falls faces a projected $20 million wastewater treatment plant improvement to address age and condition, and also to meet a new phosphorous limit.
Later that day Stine and his colleagues visited officials and managers of the Alexandria Lakes Sewage Control District. Alexandria has had long-term treatment challenges due, in part, to discharging into a shallow lake.
The MPCA crew finished its tour in Morris at the central lime softening water treatment facility that’s nearly halfway complete. The water treatment facility will help Morris lower its chloride discharges, and hopefully eliminate or dramatically reduce the needs of Morris residents to soften their water.
Several days later Stine and company headed north for Duluth to tour the WLSSD, a district created by the Minnesota Legislature in 1971. The unique facility serves 17 communities, including Duluth, and four large industrial customers. In addition to wastewater treatment, WLSSD continues to lead in finding more ways to extract value from the wastewater treatment process, such as producing combined heat and power as well as bio-gas.
Heading back south, Stine stopped in Moose Lake to tour a much smaller facility to see how it’s meeting limits designed to protect water resources. Moose Lake received state funding in the past few years to upgrade its system to meet phosphorus limits in its discharge permit.