Wastewater agreements aim at better water quality in Lake Independence

Date: Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Looking down at two people working in a hole.A trio of agreements between the Metropolitan Council and three cities in western Hennepin County have facilitated the most cost-effective way for the City of Loretto to be served by the regional wastewater collection and treatment system.

A key benefit is that a new regional interceptor pipe to serve the city won’t be added until growth in nearby communities warrants it. Instead, Loretto will connect to an interceptor using local sewer lines owned and maintained by Medina and Independence.

“The Council’s Environmental Services division collaborates with municipalities to expand our service in ways that consider their current and long-term needs, forecasted development in the area, and the regional benefits,” said Jeannine Clancy, assistant general manager. “Expanding the system is not a one-size-fits-all approach and requires cooperation from city partners.”

Improving water quality, meeting Loretto’s need for service

As communities in the seven-county metro area develop and as populations increase, that growth needs to be supported with additional wastewater collection and treatment infrastructure. Areas served by municipally owned and operated treatment plants often reach a point where connecting to the regional system is the most efficient and economical solution to providing reliable service to residents and businesses.

Lake Independence, in northwest Hennepin County, is classified as “recreational water” because its primary uses are swimming, fishing, and boating. In 2007, the lake was identified as an “impaired water” because of excess nutrients, including phosphorus. Excess phosphorus can lead to harmful algal blooms which not only make the lake undesirable for recreation but can also be toxic. Severe or recurring algal blooms can reduce the dissolved oxygen in a lake, suffocating fish and other aquatic life.

The City of Loretto owns and operates a wastewater treatment plant that indirectly discharges into Lake Independence. To protect and improve water quality in the lake, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) decided to prohibit phosphorus from Loretto’s wastewater facility from being discharged to the lake. The MPCA outlined a compliance schedule for Loretto to connect to the regional sanitary sewer system by Dec. 31, 2020.

People working with equipment on a trench next to a road.

Interim plan accounts for Loretto’s forecasted growth

For more than a decade, the Met Council and the City of Loretto have been planning to expand the regional wastewater system to the area. They expedited those plans to meet the MPCA’s compliance schedule. Building a regional interceptor to Loretto was estimated to cost $50 million, Clancy said. Such significant infrastructure isn’t a reasonable investment given the projected growth in the area.

Instead, the Council and cities developed an interim plan to utilize local infrastructure owned by the cities of Medina and Independence. The plan allows the Met Council to provide needed service to Loretto for $4.5 million that meets Loretto’s capacity needs and area growth for the next 20 years.

The plan also helps protect the quality of Lake Independence by phasing out Loretto’s wastewater treatment facility and the treated effluent discharge to the lake. This plan allows the Council to delay significant costs until growth in nearby municipalities — and the associated wastewater flow — demands additional infrastructure.

Cities and Council reach key agreements

Expanding regional wastewater service to Loretto required the Met Council to enter into three intergovernmental agreements, Clancy said. Agreements with Independence and Medina provide reimbursement for the added expense of operating and maintaining the portions of their wastewater collection systems that convey Loretto’s flow. An agreement with Loretto ensures the city will construct facilities that connect to the Independence system and will install a flow meter, for which they will be reimbursed. Loretto also agreed to set aside land for a regional lift station to be built when future growth requires additional infrastructure.

While the process of providing service to the city of Loretto may seem complex, the project’s purposes are clear: protect the environment and invest public finances wisely. Expanding service to Loretto protects the water quality in Lake Independence and doing so in collaboration with the surrounding municipalities allows the Council to use existing infrastructure effectively.

Metropolitan Council Environmental Services

Posted In: Wastewater & Water

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