Aspen Hills wastewater treatment plant discharges excessive phosphorus, fecal coliform into Tibbets Brook for nearly three years

Stephen Mikkelson, 218-316-3887

According to a Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) enforcement investigation, Aspen Hills Homeowners Association’s wastewater treatment plant in Elk River consistently discharged excess phosphorus, suspended solids, and fecal coliform above permitted limits into nearby Tibbets Brook from 2019 to 2021. These pollutants negatively impact water quality, putting aquatic life and potentially human health at risk. Tibbets Brook has been on the MPCA’s list of impaired waters since 2012 for E. coli impairments.

In addition to paying a $10,767 civil penalty to the MPCA, Aspen Hills Homeowners Assoc. must complete corrective actions, including:

  • Hire a third-party consultant with wastewater experience to complete and submit a facility evaluation to determine changes needed to the physical components and operation of the plant to ensure future permit compliance. 
  • Prepare and submit an operations and reserve fund plan (OFP). The OFP must include an evaluation of current and future operations, maintenance, and capital costs to ensure the system is adequately funded to operate and maintain permit compliance. 

MPCA rules and regulations are designed to protect human health and the environment by limiting pollution emissions and discharges from facilities. When companies do not fully comply with regulatory requirements, the resulting pollution can be harmful to people and the environment.

When calculating penalties, the MPCA takes into account how seriously the violations affected or could have affected the environment, and whether they were first-time or repeat violations. The agency also attempts to recover the economic benefit the company gained by failing to comply with environmental laws in a timely manner.