Wastewater Planning and Service

WW-Treatment_350.jpgOur region needs high-quality, affordable, and sustainable wastewater collection and treatment services to prosper and grow. The Metropolitan Council collects and treats wastewater for nearly 3 million people in the region, as well as for institutions, businesses, and industries. Our nine treatment plants continue to achieve near perfect compliance with federal and state water discharge standards while keeping rates competitive.

To maintain our current level of service, we need to plan for and address challenges including aging infrastructure, excessive groundwater and stormwater in wastewater pipes, new treatment methods and technologies, and changing regulations.

Central concerns for the wastewater system

Inflow and infiltration. Excessive groundwater and stormwater in the regional wastewater system can impact flow rates, cause sewage backups, and create a cost burden on ratepayers.

Sewage waste receiving sites.  Many sites that receive hauled liquid waste have closed in recent years. Additional facilities may need to be established to meet the needs of the region.

Acquisition of rural wastewater treatment plants. When requested by a local government, the Met Council considers acquiring locally owned treatment plants if those plants could benefit the regional system and align with the local government’s comprehensive plan.

Contaminants of regulatory concern. We continue to monitor new and changing regulatory limits with emerging information and treatment technologies. While there are many contaminants of concern, this paper specifically discusses phosphorus, nitrate, ammonia, total nitrogen, and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) compounds.

Centralized and decentralized wastewater planning. Expansion through centralization or decentralization will be important to consider as the region grows and when more infrastructure is needed.

Wastewater surveillance. During the pandemic, the Met Council provided critical services by tracking viral loads in wastewater. In the future, we may need to do more of this work to support and protect our region’s public health.

Strong policies, strong partnerships

As we plan and address these challenges, we will continue to work in partnership with local governments that collect wastewater that feed into the regional system.

Wastewater Surveillance

We recommend adding a new policy addressing wastewater surveillance.

“The Met Council will support efforts to investigate if or how Environmental Services can assist in wastewater surveillance in the interest of public health insights, when the need arises and funding is available. The Met Council will continue to partner with public health agencies to remain aware of when the Met Council can provide insights.”

Contaminants of regulatory concern

We recommend adding a new policy addressing contaminants of regulatory concern.

“The Met Council will continue to partner, engage, and provide expertise in the research and regulatory work for contaminants of regulatory concern. The Met Council will continue participating in conversations with other public agencies to stay on top of emerging contaminants and any changing regulatory requirements.”

To implement this policy, we are also proposing the following recommendations specifically related to nitrogen and PFAS, resulting from an analysis of the key issues.

Nitrogen. The Met Council will continue to engage with stakeholder groups in the development of both potential ammonia water quality standards and the Minnesota Nutrient Reduction Strategy. We will provide resources and expertise to other agencies working towards the same goal.

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Currently there is no proven technology to treat municipal wastewater for all the types of PFAS at the very low levels that regulators are considering. Source reduction within the sewershed is currently the best available strategy. The Met Council will:

  • Develop communication tools to address this complex and quickly evolving topic.
  • Continue internal development of PFAS knowledge.
  • Develop risk-based priorities for accelerated actions, for example, focused source reduction at wastewater treatment plants with land application programs.
  • Where appropriate support PFAS research related to wastewater treatment plants.

Interceptor ownership transfer

 We recommend reinstating a policy on interceptor reconveyance.

“Interceptors and related facilities for the collection, treatment, and disposal of sewage in the metropolitan area that are no longer needed to implement the regional wastewater system plan will be reconveyed, abandoned, or sold to the appropriate local governmental unit pursuant to statutes.”

The following conditions are recommended for adoption to support this policy.

  • An existing interceptor (or segment of it) is no longer necessary to the regional wastewater system when it serves:
  • Primarily as a local trunk sewer; or
  • As a local trunk sewer that ultimately conveys 200,000 gallons per day or less from an upstream community; or
  • A local trunk sewer that conveys only stormwater.


  • The interceptor has been designed to provide wastewater service to all or substantially all the upstream community; or
  • The flow from the upstream community is greater than 50% of the total sted flow at any part within the interceptor.

Water conservation and reuse

We have an existing policy regarding water conservation and reuse and we support the policy recommendations and implementation activities related to wastewater reuse proposed in the Water Reuse research paper. Although no additional implementation actions are suggested here, we acknowledge that decreasing water consumption is an effective way to preserve or recapture hydraulic wastewater system capacity. The Met Council will continue to support efforts and relationships to reduce water consumptive use.

Serving the urban area

We have an existing policy regarding serving the urban area and recommend continuing to use that policy.

Serving the rural area

We have an existing policy regarding serving the rural area. We recommend making the policy modifications indicated in bold:

“The Met Council will acquire wastewater treatment plants owned by Rural Centers, based upon their request through the comprehensive plan and comprehensive sewer plan processes, if the requested acquisition:

  • Provides cost-effective service
  • Accommodates assigned growth
  • Protects public health and well-being
  • Currently meets or, with improvements can meet, environmental and regulatory requirements.

In addition, customer input must be solicited and a public hearing on the request must be conducted.”

Below are the recommended actions that could be added to the policy:

  • The Met Council will consider providing a higher level of service for liquid waste haulers by investigating adding and maintaining liquid waste receiving sites.
  • The Met Council will partner with state agencies to discuss subsurface sewage treatment system disposal facilities and rural access to disposal sites.

Private wastewater systems

We have an existing policy regarding private wastewater systems. Below are the recommended actions that could be added to the policy:
  • The Met Council will give higher priority to service extensions in those areas with subsurface sewage treatment systems that have a higher likelihood of contaminating source water protection areas through spills or underperforming systems.

Wastewater system investments

We have an existing policy regarding how the Met Council makes regional wastewater system investments. Below are the recommended actions that could be added to the policy. The Met Council will:

  • Perform cost/benefit analyses, including environmental impact studies, if customers express a need for a higher level of service, for example, opening or reopening a liquid waste disposal site, to ensure all waste is efficiently and effectively processed and all rate payers have access to reasonable and appropriate levels of service.
  • Consider future infrastructure investments with an equity and environmental justice perspective to minimize impacts and leave the community with something better than what they had.

Wastewater sustainability

We have an existing policy regarding wastewater sustainability. We are currently considering the Met Council’s new Climate Action Work Plan to determine how it may impact and guide our new policy on wastewater sustainability.

Inflow and infiltration

We have an existing policy regarding inflow and infiltration. We recommend making the policy modifications indicated in bold:

“The Met Council will not provide additional capacity within its interceptor and treatment systems to serve excessive inflow and infiltration.

The Met Council will establish inflow and infiltration goals for all communities discharging wastewater to the regional wastewater system. Communities that have excessive inflow and infiltration in their sanitary sewer systems will be required to eliminate the excessive inflow and infiltration within a reasonable time period.”

Below are the recommended actions that could be added to the policy. The Met Council will:

  • Continue to support, advocate, and coordinate with Metro Cities for state bond funding for municipal public system I/I grants.
  • Advocate for dedicated and reliable funding for private property inflow and infiltration mitigation and pursue grant program recommendations from the 2023 Private Property Inflow and Infiltration Task Force.
  • Consider direction from the Climate Action Work Plan when considering climate impacts on inflow and infiltration.

Wastewater system finance

We have an existing policy regarding wastewater system finance. Below are the recommended actions that could be added to the policy. The Met Council will:

  • Collaborate with partner organizations who advocate for and assist with household water and wastewater affordability.
  • Continue Sewer Availability Charge (SAC) loan programs for small businesses (new or expanding) and qualifying existing residential connections to the Metropolitan Disposal System.

Provide your feedback

Provide your feedback

The survey linked below offers the opportunity to provide feedback about the ideas and recommendations generated in the paper and about the topic as a whole. Hearing feedback from the region will help us create a Water Resources Policy Plan that is more reflective of the values held by our residents and water professionals.

Wastewater Planning and Service Considerations Research Paper Survey