Regional Wastewater Facts

Down the drain, into a sewer pipe

Whenever we take a shower, flush a toilet or run the washing machine or dishwasher, we create wastewater. That wastewater is carried through a pipe from the property into a municipal sanitary sewer pipe. That pipe is, in turn, connected to a regional interceptor sewer. 

The regional wastewater collection system includes:

  • Approximately 610 miles of interceptors, up to 14 feet in diameter 
  • 60 lift stations that pump flows to treatment plants
  • ‚Äč224 metering sites that help determine communities’ share of regional costs 
  • 9 wastewater treatment plants

The regional wastewater collection and treatment system is operated by Metropolitan Council Environmental Services. Wastewater services are designed to protect public health and the environment. 

photo close up of person checking water pipes

From pipes to treatment plants 

photo of two men standing in a wastewater treatment facilityCollection interceptors carry wastewater to the 9 treatment plants, which have a combined capacity to treat 358 million gallons per day (mgd). In an average day, the plants treat 250 million gallons of wastewater from 110 of the region’s communities. The plants operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and serve 2.6 million residents in the seven-county Twin Cities region. 

Wastewater treatment results in clean water (effluent), discharged into one of three rivers (Mississippi, St. Croix and Minnesota). In the case of the East Bethel Water Reclamation Facility, effluent is discharged into the ground for groundwater recharge.

Wastewater treatment also results in solid byproducts. The Council incinerates most of its solid byproducts and, in the process, produces energy. The remainder are recycled and processed for a variety of uses. 

We strive to keep wastewater service fees competitive and affordable. A 2017 survey by the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) confirms that wastewater rates to retail customers in the Twin Cities metro region are about 41% lower than the national average among similar-sized systems. 

Plants have excellent environmental record 

Regional wastewater treatment plants continue to perform at a high level, achieving near-perfect compliance with federal and state clean water discharge limits. The Hastings and St. Croix Valley plants are two of the top 10 plants in the country for consecutive years (28 and 27 years, respectively) of full compliance with clean water discharge permits. 

The Council is a leader in sustainable and renewable energy use. In the last decade, efforts to conserve and recover energy in wastewater operations have yielded an annual savings of more than $3.5 million for our customers. In 2018, we began a new partnership with Xcel Energy to make all of our electricity purchases 100% renewable by 2040.

Metro Plant in Saint Paul is one of nation's largest

photo of a man looking at a screenOpened in 1938, the Metro Plant in Saint Paul was the first wastewater treatment plant located in a major city on the Mississippi River. Today’s upgraded plant is among the largest in the U.S., with a capacity to treat 251 million gallons per day (mgd).

The Metro Plant processes approximately 70% of the total wastewater collected and treated by the Council. The 67 communities and more than 550 permitted industries served by the Metro Plant produce average wastewater flows of 173 mgd. 

The Metro Plant has made significant environmental strides, reducing phosphorus discharges to the river by 90% between 2000 and 2011. The plant also cut airborne emissions, like particulates and mercury, by 90%. 

Eight smaller wastewater treatment plants

Located on the Minnesota River in Eagan, the Seneca Plant is the region’s second-largest wastewater treatment facility. The 34-mgd plant serves six communities with a combined population of 245,000 people and treats an average of 21.5 mgd. 

The 32 mgd Blue Lake Plant in Shakopee also is located on the Minnesota River. The plant treats an average of 26 mgd and serves a population of 285,000 in 27 southwest metro-area communities. 

The Empire Plant, located in Empire Township, serves some 150,000 people in six growing Dakota County communities. Plant capacity is 28.6 mgd; it currently treats approximately 10.7 mgd. The plant’s effluent is piped 12 miles to the Mississippi River. 

The Eagles Point Plant in Cottage Grove serves southern Washington County. The plant treats approximately 4.8 mgd; its 11.9-mgd treatment capacity currently serves 72,000 people. 

Located on the scenic St. Croix River, a nationally protected waterway, the 5.8-mgd St. Croix Valley Plant has been recognized as one of the nation’s best advanced treatment plants by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It serves three communities with average flows of 3.1 mgd. 

The 2.7-mgd Hastings Plant serves its namesake community. The plant treats an average of 1.4 mgd and discharges clean water to the Mississippi River. 

Acquired in 2019 at the request of the City of Rogers, the Rogers Plant serves its namesake community. The plant treats an average of 1.6 mgd and discharges clean water to the Crow River. The Council has plans to build and open a new Crow River Wastewater Treatment Plant by 2030, with initial capacity to treat 3 mgd, serving more communities. . 

The East Bethel Water Reclamation Facility in northern Anoka County is the Council’s first water reuse facility. It opened in July 2014 and has the capacity to treat 0.47 mgd to very high standards, including phosphorus and nitrogen removal followed by membrane filtration and ultraviolet disinfection. The treated effluent is currently being used to recharge surficial groundwater. 

In 2019, Environmental Services is managing more than than $117 million on capital projects that support infrastructure reliability, protect public health, and support regional growth. The Authorized Capital Program provides multi-year authorizations to spend on projects where funding has been secured and the Council has given final approval to proceed. The 2020-2025 Capital Program is $990 million. Capital expenses are for the nine treatment plants as well as numerous interceptor, lift station, and meter station construction and rehabilitation projects.