On a recent Friday afternoon, instead of wrapping up the week from offices in St. Paul, MPCA officials hit the road to southwest Minnesota to see firsthand how industry and local government can work together on environmental responsibilities.
The city of Luverne (pop. 4,745) is facing an expensive upgrade to its wastewater treatment plant. West of town, Premium Iowa Pork (PIP) is rebuilding a processing plant and needs industrial wastewater service. In a partnership with the city, PIP will be contributing up to $6.7 million toward the wastewater plant upgrade.
Attired in hard hats and orange safety vests, MPCA Commissioner Laura Bishop, Assistant Commissioner Katrina Kessler, and several MPCA staff toured the PIP project with hosts from the company and city. “It’s great to see this partnership that benefits both the community and company,” says Bishop.
At their next stop in Marshall, they met with city officials to hear their issues and concerns. Marshall, home to the large Archer Daniels Midland corn processing plant, recently took on a $14 million drinking water treatment plant upgrade, which will not only soften the drinking water, but reduce the amount of chloride going to the wastewater treatment plant.
“We’re doing our best to deal with increasing costs and regulations,” says Bob VanMoer, Marshall waste treatment plant superintendent. “We understand and accept the responsibilities, and appreciate having our concerns heard.”
With agriculture the region’s economic mainstay, the connections between farms and regional urban centers create an environment where partnerships and cooperation make it all work. All the more important with competition coming from nearby Iowa and South Dakota.
“Wastewater treatment plants across Minnesota play a truly critical role in the health and well-being of our communities by providing wastewater treatment for residents and businesses at a reasonable cost,” says Bishop. “We have been working for a long time with these cities to advance their projects in a timely manner that meets the water quality standards.
“Construction costs for wastewater infrastructure are a significant challenge for many municipalities. Assistance will continue to be necessary from the state and federal governments. The Minnesota Public Facilities Authority, Department of Health, and Pollution Control Agency work as a team, along with USDA-Rural Development, to maximize the financing to replace aged infrastructure such as pipes and plants.”