Processing potatoes to make hash browns and other products consumes about a half-million gallons of water a day at Michael Foods in Chaska. And the starchy leftover liquid all ends up at a water treatment plant in Shakopee.
Water from industrial businesses like Michael Foods is more costly to clean than what flows down a household drain. So the Metropolitan Council, which purifies the region’s wastewater, is helping businesses install machinery to clean it at the source instead.
“It’s a win for the environment. It’s a win for the taxpayer, because the public benefit is tremendous,” said Shane Menefee, director of environmental affairs for Michael Foods.
The new program appears to be the first of its kind in the nation, tackling a problem common among wastewater agencies. Depending on how many businesses finalize agreements with the Met Council, the first round of contracts could exceed $20 million in value.
Under the agreements, the council will finance the installation of water purification equipment at industrial plants, with most of the debt repaid by the business over time. Council staff said that, as a result, treatment plants can reduce operating costs and delay costly expansions. Other people in the water treatment industry will be watching to see how it goes.