117 years of perfect performance for clean water

Date: Monday, July 26, 2021

A plant operator adjusts machinery in the solids management building at the Metro Plant in St. Paul.The Metropolitan Council’s nine wastewater treatment plants continue to earn high honors for compliance with their federal clean water discharge permits. On July 21, all nine plants were recognized during the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) Peak Performance Awards program.

"These annual Peak Performance Awards from NACWA are a leading indicator of the high level of excellence that we consistently achieve in providing our essential wastewater service to the public," said Leisa Thompson, general manager of Metropolitan Council Environmental Services. "From our staff on the front lines operating and maintaining our treatment and interceptor facilities and keeping them in permit compliance, to our staff in numerous functions across the division who support our operations, their dedication and collaboration day in and day out are what deliver these results.”

Hastings, St. Croix Valley have high rankings nationally

Based on their performance through 2020, six plants earned Platinum Awards for achieving five or more consecutive years of full compliance with their clean water discharge permits:

  • Hastings (30 years)
  • St. Croix Valley (29 years)
  • Blue Lake (15 years)
  • Eagles Point (15 years)
  • Empire (13 years)
  • Metro (9 years)

The Hastings and St. Croix Valley Plants' compliance records put them among the top plants in the nation. Only four other plants have as many consecutive years of perfect compliance, at 32, 31, 30, and 29 years each.

Seneca (nearly four years) and Rogers (two years) earned Gold Awards for achieving up to four years of full compliance. Our plants combined now have 117 years of consecutive compliance.

Overhead view of a wastewater treatment plant next to a river.

Permit compliance takes many hands

Jeff Ruff, a business unit coordinator at the Metro Plant, notes some of the roles of treatment plant operations staff in ensuring our excellent permit compliance records:

  • They work with laboratory staff to operate and maintain the various water quality samplers both on the influent and effluent sides of the Metro Plant to make sure sampling stays consistent and we stay within our permit requirements.
  • They operate the various odor control fans including the bio-filter and building fans that also are tied to our permits.
  • They disinfect our effluent discharge, which includes the use of bleach and bisulfate to assure that bacteria levels and other water quality permits are met prior to discharging into the Mississippi River.

Ruff also notes that from June through September, the plant staff monitor the dissolved oxygen level in the river downstream of the plant. "When the dissolved oxygen gets low, we run our effluent pumps to add oxygen to the river to help the fish and other wildlife that rely on a clean river to survive during low flow and drought conditions," Ruff said. "Anglers and other outdoor enthusiasts appreciate the clean conditions we help provide."

The awards caught the attention of KARE 11 TV, which aired this story on July 13: Metro area wastewater treatment plants win national recognition, performance awards.

Posted In: Wastewater & Water