January 2021 SSTS Bulletin

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) published the January 2021 SSTS Bulletin this week. This quarterly newsletter includes subsurface sewage treatment system news and notes for local governments, septic system professionals, homeowners, and others that are interested.

All articles in this edition of the bulletin are listed below, but of particular interest may be the SSTS rule changes that became effective on January 11th. The rule modifications can be broken down into 3 main changes: 1) SDS permit requirements, 2) flow equalization, and 3) existing system tank inspections. Be sure to read the article for more information.

Also of note:

  • An important discussion on proper maintenance
  • Tank fee process – tank fee forms were mailed in early December to every SSTS installation business that held a license for at least 1 day in 2020 and must be submitted to the MPCA by the end of January
  • 2020 SSTS Annual Report – these were sent to local SSTS programs on December 10th and are due back to the MPCA by February 1st

All articles in the January 2021 edition of the SSTS Bulletin:

  • SSTS rule changes effective Jan. 11
  • An important discussion on proper maintenance
  • Tank fee process
  • MPCA SSTS staff update
  • 2021 MPCA talking tour, mini pumper courses cancelled
  • 2020 SSTS Annual Report
  • Fish Cleaning Shacks. Do they produce sewage?
  • Have a story idea or a topic you’d like to learn more about? Let us know

Click here to read the bulletin.

Hold the Salt to Protect Minnesota Water

Minnesotans love their lakes, rivers, and other bodies of water, but we’ve got a growing problem with salt pollution. Excess salt (chlorides) comes primarily from three sources:

  1. Road salt
  2. Water softeners
  3. Fertilizer, manure, and dust suppressant

Salty water threatens fish and other aquatic life. Chloride can also get into our groundwater, so water supplies that come from surface water and groundwater are impacted. One teaspoon of salt is enough to permanently pollute 5 gallons of water, and once it’s in the water, there is no easy way to remove it.

So, what can you do? … Yes, YOU can have an impact!

The Washington County Department of Public Health and Environment, in partnership with the East Metro Water Resources Education Program and the Washington Conservation District, produced a short, fun video that explains the problem with easy-to-understand cartoon graphics and offers suggestions on what the general public can do to help protect Minnesota water.

Check out the video by clicking here, or clicking on the video below!

Learn more about salt in Minnesota waters at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s Chloride 101 website.

Reminders on Reopening Buildings and Maintaining Water Quality

As the Governor’s newest Executive Order has lifted some of the previous restrictions on indoor activities and events, some businesses may be reopening after a prolonged period of closure. Even if businesses were not completely closed, many buildings have been experiencing periods of little to no water usage. When water sits in a building’s plumbing system, water quality issues can arise.

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) issued recommendations for community and noncommunity public water systems earlier on in the pandemic, but it is important to remember this information as periods of little to no water usage continue. See the basic information below that applies to your situation, as well as links to more information from MDH.

Community Public Water Systems (Utilities and Building Owners):

Water utilities should take action to prevent issues. This includes working with the facilities in your community, particularly the owners and managers of larger buildings. It is recommended to provide building owners and managers with guidance on how to adequately flush the plumbing systems in their buildings. Consider flushing water mains that serve commercial districts or schools. Be sure to notify the building owners prior and recommend they flush internal plumbing as well before using the water.

Water utilities should see the MDH handout: Ensuring Water Quality in Building Premise Plumbing (water utilities) for more information on flushing and for more recommendations on things to communicate with building owners about. The handout also includes links to many more resources.

Building owners and managers should also take action to prevent issues, including flushing all water in your building. It is important that large building owners share their flushing schedules with any other large users in their immediate area in order to avoid a low pressure incident and/or high water demand. Also keep an eye out for information about upcoming flushing of water mains near your building.

Building owners and managers should see the MDH handout: Ensuring Water Quality in Building Premise Plumbing (building owners and managers) for more information on flushing and for more recommendations on actions to take. The handout also includes links to many more resources.

It is important to remember that the water utility and the building owner or manager both have important actions to take.

Noncommunity Public Water Systems:

Noncommunity public water systems are different than community systems, as the water system owner and building owner are often the same person. These systems provide water to the public in places other than their homes. Examples of these systems include restaurants, hotels, and other businesses that get their water from their own well or small system of wells.

If you are reopening your noncommunity public water system after a period of low or no use, you should follow the System Reopening and Maintaining Water Quality guidance from MDH. Broadly, this guidance includes information on a reopening and maintenance plan that should be followed to maintain safe and sanitary water quality. The plan should include a self-inspection, an integrity check, flushing stagnant water, disinfection of the well and water system, and testing of the water. Please see the guidance for more information on each of these components.

Noncommunity public water systems that completely depressurized their distribution system(s) should instead follow the Start-Up Procedure for Seasonal Public Water Systems.

More Information and FAQ:

For more information, including answers to many frequently asked questions, be sure to go to the MDH Public Water Systems and COVID-19 website. There you can also find contact information for MDH staff that are available to help you.

December 2020 On Point Newsletter Available

The December 2020 edition of the On Point newsletter is now available. On Point, published by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), contains news and updates for wastewater discharge permit holders.

There are some topics in this newsletter that may be of particular interest, including:

All articles in the December 2020 edition:

  • St. Cloud, Pipestone projects garner EPA’s top awards for innovation, excellence in protecting environment, health
  • Have a water infrastructure project that needs funding? Here’s how to apply
  • Social distancing no barrier to farm-city partnership on environment
  • Compliance Tip: Be sure to calibrate flow monitoring equipment
  • Year-end submittals: Send in Water Quality Submittals electronically
  • eDMRs: How to report parameters with no results, including chlorine
  • Reminder: Annual biosolids report due to MPCA and EPA
  • Wastewater training calendar updated for first half of 2021
  • EPA requiring additional information for chloride variance requests
  • Collection system and wastewater conferences set for March 16-17, 2021
  • Upcoming exam sessions
  • January/February Smart Salting training opportunities
  • Wastewater in the news

Click here to read the entire newsletter. Previous issues can be found on the MPCA website.

MN Nutrient Reduction Strategy Progress Report

As the year comes to a close, it presents a good time to reflect on the progress of various water resources projects and set additional steps for moving forward.

One such project is the Nutrient Reduction Strategy (NRS), which was adopted by 11 organizations in 2014. The NRS “outlines how Minnesota will reduce nutrient pollution in its lakes and streams, and reduce the impact downstream”. It targets phosphorus and nitrogen levels, establishing reduction goals of 10-20% to be reached by 2025 over much of the state, as well as larger reduction goals to be reached by 2040.

Every 5 years, the NRS requires a progress report to asses whether or not the state is on track to reach the nutrient reduction goals. As such, the 5-Year Progress Report on Minnesota’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy was released by the State of Minnesota this year and this report serves as a halfway point for the goals to be reached by 2025.

The progress report assesses 1) water quality trends over the past 1-2 decades to determine if water quality is improving, 2) state-level program advancements to see if their programs are making progress, and 3) changes in practices to see if enough practices are being added to reduce nutrient pollution. The report also lays out the actions will be taken or will be continued in the next 5 years.

Assessment of water quality trends over the past 10-20 years showed that phosphorous levels are down, while nitrogen levels are up. An important note is that the significantly increased precipitation in recent years has led to increased runoff. This offsets the progress made with phosphorus levels and increases nitrogen levels further. Over the next 5 years, river monitoring and trends analysis will continue.

Of the major program areas identified in the initial 2014 NRS, almost all were advanced. Minnesota has expanded and/or initiated more than 30 programs associated with the recommendations in the 2014 NRS. However, more time is needed for these programs to effectively contribute to nutrient reduction at their full potential. Partner agencies will continue to develop, implement, and expand these programs over the next 5 years.

Although there is still a great deal of work to do in both urban and rural areas regarding practices to reduce nutrient pollution, wastewater treatment has shown to contribute to the reduction in phosphorus levels and cropland practices have gone into place on several hundred thousand acres. Over the next 5 years, progress will continue with urban stormwater, septic systems and manure spreading, along with continuing the steps outlined in the 2014 NRS.

The report also lays out some additional steps that need to be taken in the next 5 years:

  1. “Maximize the multiple benefits of NRS practices by coordinating with other plans and strategies that use similar practices to achieve resiliency to climate change and ecosystem improvements.
  2. Identify and address social, economic and other human dimension obstacles to scaling-up BMP (best management practice) implementation.
  3. Use the latest research to continue refining the optimal combination of practices that will achieve the needed nutrient reductions in our waters.
  4. Optimize wastewater nitrogen treatment.”

The progress report can be viewed on the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s website on this page. There you will find the entire report, along with an executive summary and appendices. Additionally, the Tracking BMP Progress tool can be used to visualize progress in BMP adoption for nutrient reduction across the state.

Anoka County Partners to Receive Clean Water Fund Grants

The following press release from the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) announces the approval of 37 grants to “support conservation projects benefiting drinking water and improving water quality”. Of these grants, three will go to Anoka County local government entities: the Coon Creek Watershed District (in partnership with the City of Coon Rapids), the City of Fridley, and the Anoka Conservation District. Projects will support Pleasure Creek, East Moore Lake, and the Rum River, respectively. Additionally, the City of Hugo will receive a grant for a stormwater reuse system that will positively impact Peltier Lake, which is in Anoka County. Click here to read the abstract for each project receiving a grant.

Board of Water and Soil Resources News Release


Contact: Mary Juhl

BWSR awards $12.3 million in Clean Water Fund grants

37 grants will support conservation projects benefiting drinking water and improving water quality

December 18, 2020

St. Paul, Minn. — The Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) approved $12.3 million in Clean Water Fund grants at the Dec. 17 board meeting. The grants will be used to improve water quality in lakes, rivers, streams and groundwater across the state. Most of the grant funding is allocated for voluntary conservation projects across Minnesota, including $646,825 for projects that specifically focus on improving and protecting drinking water. Multipurpose drainage management projects will receive $551,159.

“Throughout Minnesota, local government staff and private landowners are collaborating with the state to make meaningful progress toward improving water quality,” said BWSR Executive Director John Jaschke. “These grants are a key component in ongoing efforts to keep our water clean and our lakes, rivers and streams healthy.”

The $12.3 million will fund 37 separate grants that will be awarded to local government entities (soil and water conservation districts, counties, watershed districts, watershed management organizations, and cities). Grant funding will support projects and practices that reduce erosion, protect and restore surface water quality in lakes and streams, and protect ground water. This includes stormwater treatment, shoreline restoration, and treatments that reduce sediment, bacteria, nitrate and phosphorus.

Learn more about the grant recipients:

About the Minnesota Clean Water Fund

Minnesota voters approved the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment in 2008 to protect, enhance, and restore wetlands, prairies, forests, and fish, game, and wildlife habitat; to preserve arts and cultural heritage; to support parks and trails; and to protect, enhance, and restore lakes, rivers, streams, and groundwater. The Clean Water Fund receives 33 percent of the sales tax revenue generated by the Legacy Amendment. More information about the Clean Water Fund is available here.


BWSR is the state soil and water conservation agency, and it administers programs that prevent sediment and nutrients from entering our lakes, rivers, and streams; enhance fish and wildlife habitat; and protect wetlands. The 20-member board consists of representatives of local and state government agencies and citizens. BWSR’s mission is to improve and protect Minnesota’s water and soil resources by working in partnership with local organizations and private landowners.

Questions? Contact Us

New Videos Explaining One Watershed One Plan Program

Previous posts on Know the Flow and around the web have discussed or mentioned the One Watershed, One Plan program (1W1P). The 1W1P program is administered by the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) and its purpose is to “develop comprehensive watershed management plans for Minnesota’s major watersheds*.”

Last week, BWSR released a series of short videos that explain what the 1W1P program is all about. The 5 videos discuss the following:

  • What is One Watershed, One Plan?
  • Three Big Ideas
  • Roles, Committees, and Commitments
  • A Brief History of Watershed Management in Minnesota
  • Making Choices to Show Results

These videos are a great introduction to the 1W1P program, as well as general watershed management! Find them on the BWSR website here.

* There are 3 major watersheds that overlap with the boundaries of Anoka County: the Lower St. Croix, Mississippi, and Rum River watersheds. The Lower St. Croix‘s Comprehensive Watershed Management Plan was approved by BWSR in October of 2020 and the Rum River watershed is currently in the planning process.

For more information on the 1W1P program, see the website.

Translations of Water Resources Videos Now Available

Our Groundwater Connection

The Anoka County Water Resource Outreach Collaborative has translated their “Our Groundwater Connection” video into the 6 most commonly spoken, non-English languages in Anoka County via subtitles. These languages include:

  • Somali
  • Hmong
  • Spanish
  • Vietnamese
  • Arabic
  • Russian

To access the subtitles (except for Hmong – keep reading for instructions to view Hmong subtitles), first go to the video on YouTube, then click on the gear icon in the bottom right of the video, then on “Subtitles”, and then finally choose the language you wish to see subtitles in.

Uploading Hmong subtitles is not yet supported by YouTube. View Hmong subtitles here. Timestamps help the viewer follow along with the visuals in the video. This link to the subtitles is also provided in the video’s description on YouTube.

MS4-Related Videos – Lawn Care & Illicit Discharge

Additionally, many new videos have been released with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s MS4 Toolkit that cover topics like lawn care and illicit discharge. With the exception of the Hmong videos, these videos do not have any spoken audio (just music), but have text describing the photos and video clips that make up the video as a whole. Videos are available with this text in English, Spanish, Somali, and Hmong. To view a video, click on the language you wish to watch the video in

  1. Illicit discharge:
  2. Lawn Care:
  3. 4 Tips for a Beautiful, Water-Friendly Yard:


The Anoka County Water Resource Outreach Collaborative is “a fledgling partnership formed in 2018 to implement a comprehensive water outreach and engagement program for watershed and city partners in Anoka County, MN.” Partners include the Anoka Conservation District (host), Anoka County, local watershed management organizations, and cities and townships. (Website)

Mini Maintenance Workshops: Managing Snow and Ice

The Mississippi Watershed Management Organization (MWMO) is hosting two short workshops on winter maintenance. Both workshops are the same and the program is free, but registration is required. Click on the option that works best for you to register.

Although salt is important for safety in the winter months, it creates permanent water quality issues in our water resources. This workshop will teach participants methods for managing snow and ice that reduce pollution of our water resources for use at home, at work, or in the community.

Learn more about winter maintenance here at the MWMO’s Snow and Ice Removal page.

Photo from the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization.

Metro Region Water Supply Planning

In 2005, the Minnesota Legislature decided to give regional water supply planning responsibilities to the Metropolitan Council (Met Council). The Council’s role in water supply is not as a supplier nor as a regulator. Rather, the Met Council collaborates with “water utilities and other water agencies in long-range planning, providing data and analysis, giving grants for water conservation, and facilitating sub-regional water partnerships”.

This September, the Met Council published the report “Water Supply Planning in the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area (2005-2020)“, which highlights recent projects and planning activities addressing the water supply needs of the region, along with new findings and recommendations for moving forward.

While the Twin Cities area has relatively plentiful water resources, factors like population growth, increased pumping of groundwater (on which 75% of the region’s population solely relies), land use changes, and changes in climate patterns create challenges for some communities to be able to meet demand.

The report begins by describing the water supply sources for the metro region and key factors shaping the approach to water supply planning by the Met Council and its partners. After describing the Council’s role in water supply planning and its approach, key findings are presented. The report then highlights various successes the Met Council and its partners have accomplished over the years.

One highlight is the “Northwest Metro Area Water Supply System Study”, which was the result of a collaboration between the Anoka County city of Ramsey, along with the cities of Corcoran, Dayton, and Rogers. These cities, together with the Met Council, explored the costs and implementation issues of four different approaches to a multi-community water supply.

Other highlighted projects include the Metro Model – a regional groundwater flow model – and the MnTAP (Minnesota Technical Assistance Program) Water Efficiency Intern Program, among many others. If you are interested in regional water supply issues and new studies, be sure to check out the full report.

Future work can be expected to attempt to address these new questions, among others:

  • “How could equity be implemented in water supply activities?
  • What is the impact of climate change on our resources and operations in the water supply sector?
  • How can we strengthen land use and water supply planning connections?
  • What can we do to prevent contamination of our water supply sources and respond more effectively to emerging contamination, such as PFAs and chloride?”

Learn more about the Met Council at https://metrocouncil.org/.

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