Heavy rains and melting snow are a bad mix. Here's what you can do to protect your business or facility from the health risks and environmental problems caused by floods.
To reduce the likelihood of an overflow, feedlot operators are encouraged to divert water from manure-storage facilities if possible. Manure stockpiles located in areas that could flood should be removed immediately.
Farmers must contact the Minnesota Duty Officer immediately at 651-649-5451 or 800-422-0789 if their manure-storage facilities overflow, if manure enters surface waters, or if their manure storage structure is inundated by floodwaters.
Farmers can also contact the feedlot inspector in the nearest MPCA regional office if their manure-storage facilities are in danger of overflowing.
Farmers should contact their local Soil and Water Conservation District office or Minnesota Extension Service for more information on allowable application rates and suggestions for the best fields to apply manure to reduce the risk of pollution from floods.
If flooding appears likely, tanks owners should make sure their tanks are properly installed and anchored to minimize the risk of underground tanks "popping" out of the ground. Keeping tanks full of product adds weight, making it less likely that the tank will become dislodged and float away.
MPCA officials also recommend that tank owners secure all openings in the tank. Shear valves on underground tanks should be closed or "tripped" and power should be shut off to the system in the event of flooding. Shutting off the power prevents product from leaving the system if floating debris knocks over a dispenser.
Tank owners are also reminded to call the Minnesota Duty Officer at 651-649-5451 or 800-422-0789 if their tanks become damaged or product is released. Tank owners can also call the tank inspector at the nearest MPCA regional office if their tanks become damaged or product is released, or for additional information on flood preparedness.
More information is available on the following fact sheet:
If you handle and/or work with hazardous materials and hazardous wastes, these tips may help businesses prepare for potential flooding.
- Make sure that drums and other containers of hazardous wastes/products or used oil are closed, sturdy and leakproof.
- Label all containers of hazardous wastes with the words "hazardous waste," a description of the container's contents and the date when first adding waste to the container.
- Secure containers to protect from inadvertent damage.
- Place containers in an appropriate storage location - remove from lower areas such as basements.
- If possible, contract for the proper disposal of hazardous waste before flooding begins.
- Ship hazardous waste offsite to a permitted hazardous waste transporter or facility, a very small quantity generator collection point, or other recycler as appropriate (e.g., used oil recycler).
- Keep copies of shipping manifests and receipts upon disposal of any hazardous waste.
If you do not have an EPA identification number, which is needed to ship wastes, contact the MPCA Customer Assistance Center at 651-297-2274 or toll free at 800-646-6247. Additional information is available in the document below:
- Guidelines for Managing Hazardous Wastes During a Flood (currently not available)
To report spills of hazardous materials, wastes or other potential pollutants, contact the Minnesota State Duty Officer at 651-649-5451 or toll-free at 800-422-0798.
Flooding can cause serious problems for municipalities and industries that operate wastewater-treatment facilities (WWTFs). Below are some items to help WWTF operators prepare for potential floods and recover operations afterward.
Avoid bypassing if possible
Every WWTF operator wants to avoid bypassing untreated wastewater at all times, if possible. However, sometimes it becomes necessary for a number of reasons, including:
In the event of a power outage, bypassing can be avoided or minimized if generators are available to provide emergency electricity to power lift pumps. For those facilities that have emergency generators available, it is important to start the generators ahead of the need to make sure they will operate properly in emergency situations. It is also wise to plan ahead for fuel for the generators.
Lift pump failures
The most common problem during floods is failure of overworked lift pumps. If possible, lift pumps should be inspected and serviced ahead of a potential flood so they will operate at peak efficiency as flows begin to rise.
If your lift pumps have had recurring problems with specific parts or components in the past, it might be wise to have spare replacement parts on hand to repair pumps in emergency situations.
As floodwaters rise, sump pumps begin running full time and water may find its way into the sanitary sewer collection system through leaky manholes, open connections or cracked and leaky collection pipes. Lift pumps can be overwhelmed and unable to transport all of the flow to the treatment system.
Sump pumps should be disconnected from the sanitary system. If possible, some manhole cover sealing can be done. Open connections should be located and sealed.
Treatment system problems
Pond systems are normally very full in the spring. Extra water from flooding can raise water in ponds to critical levels.
In this situation, it is preferable to open the discharge structure to allow water to leave the pond system at the same rate it is entering. Be cautious of allowing water to continue to accumulate in the ponds to the top of the dikes. The clay dike core or vinyl liner does not extend all the way to the dike top. Maintaining water above the core or liner can lead to catastrophic dike failure.
If you must bypass
If bypassing is the only alternative, your first obligation is to contact the Minnesota Duty Officer at 800-422-0798 or 651-649-5451. If you need assistance or advice from the MPCA, you can inform the Duty Officer or contact the MPCA directly.
Your second obligation is to discontinue the bypass as soon as possible. If a bypass is expected to last more than a day or two, contact your MPCA representative and keep them informed of problems and progress.
Fuels in sewers
During floods, spills of fuel can sometimes which enter WWTF collection systems. Significant amounts of fuel can cause many problems for treatment systems.
If a fuel spill enters the collection system, call the Duty Officer immediately. Determine the origin of the spill and approximate volume.
Fuels are lighter than water and will float, so it is sometimes possible to contain the spill in the wet well by adjusting float levels or running the pumps manually, so the water level does not pump all the way down.
If the spill does reach the treatment system, the type of system and amount of fuel will determine how serious the problem becomes. Fuels can completely kill beneficial bacteria in a mechanical system and it may need to be "reseeded" after the fuel has passed.
Pond systems can handle some fuel without major problems. The fuel should be contained in a single pond, where it may be recoverable with proper equipment.
Flooding around a pond system
During times of heavy flooding, dikes become saturated from inside and out. This can weaken dikes and, as floodwaters recede, may lead to dike failure from the pressure of the water in the ponds pushing against saturated dikes.
In some instances pond operators may be advised to open gates and valves and allow water in the ponds to go down with the receding floodwaters. This should only be done when absolutely necessary and after consultation with MPCA staff.
Additional information is available in the following fact sheet:
If they are members of the MnWARN mutual aid program, wastewater-, water supply-, and stormwater-treatment facilities can get help getting the personnel, equipment, materials and associated services they need to protect the health and welfare of their customers during flooding. Not a member? Go to the MnWARN website for details.
A provision in the state's construction-stormwater rules (Minn. R. 7090.2020) allows certain emergency construction activities to begin before a permit application is submitted, so long as the construction activity is needed to minimize the impacts of the emergency situation that present an "imminent threat to human health, public drinking water or the environment." In such cases, the landowner needs to notify the MPCA when construction begins.
This rule allows flexibility in meeting construction stormwater permit application requirements in emergency situations, and should not be interpreted as an exemption from permit requirements in the flooded areas. This provision is applicable only in rare cases where there is an "imminent threat."
See the following fact sheet for more information:
If you have other questions about, or need assistance with, environmental problems caused by flooding in Minnesota, call the MPCA regional office nearest you:
Detroit Lakes Office — 218-847-1519
Duluth Office — 218-723-4660
Brainerd Office — 218-828-2492
Mankato Office — 507-389-5977
Marshall Office — 507-537-7146
Rochester Office — 507-285-7343
St. Paul Office — 651-296-6300
Links to Minnesota flood information
- DNR/MPCA Cooperative Stream Gaging
- National Weather Service - Minnesota forecasts and flood information.
- Stream flow conditions (U.S. Geological Survey) - Daily updates on stream and river flooding conditions in Minnesota.
- Floods - Protecting your health (MDH) - Cleanup and health tips for homeowners and businesses