2021 Performance Report

Message from the General Manager

Portrait of Leisa ThompsonIn Environmental Services, we continuously evolve our planning processes and operational approaches to address the needs of our changing community. This flexibility was particularly urgent as we adapted to meet the challenges of 2021: the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic; supply chain issues that tested our operational agility; and increasingly stringent regulatory requirements that call for a smart, focused response.

In the face of these challenges, I witnessed an impressive spirit of collaboration — from our solutions-focused interagency water quality group to our ongoing involvement in COVID-19 wastewater analysis. This is part of our intentional focus on fostering a culture of true partnership, with our stakeholders in the region and internally as well.

Some of our highlights from 2021 include:

  • Uninterrupted service despite the pandemic: We brought our people together — from employees who operate, maintain, and support our wastewater collection and treatment operations to those who work in our labs, from our offices, and at our construction sites — to evaluate the health and safety needs of staff and develop location-specific safety plans. This helped prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our workforce and allowed us to maintain our essential services.
  • Planning for climate resiliency and responding to one of the worst droughts in our region’s history: Our staff spent extra time in the field monitoring the health of our region’s rivers, lakes, and streams. When oxygen levels in the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers dropped to dangerous levels due to drought, some of our wastewater treatment plants added oxygen to our treated effluent water to help preserve aquatic life. Through our turfgrass irrigation efficiency project, we provided community-based education about proper lawn irrigation and how to reduce water use.
  • Building a more diverse workforce: To ensure we have a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace, we made a formal commitment to racial equity in MCES. The process kicked off by gathering all-staff input to help set our direction. Paired with initiatives like our Construction Inspection Training Program — focused on recruiting diverse candidates — we are taking concrete steps to develop a workplace that better reflects the communities we serve. 

The successful pursuit of our mission — to provide wastewater services and integrated planning to ensure sustainable water quality and water supply for the seven-county Twin Cities metropolitan region — depends on the support and involvement of our many stakeholders. That’s why we solicit broad, inclusive feedback from customer cities, residents, community organizations, industry peers, and others to guide and inform our planning process.

From operational expansions designed to accommodate the needs of our growing population to water policy plans aimed at reducing the impacts of climate change across our region, our division is tasked with addressing complex issues. Working together with our partners, I am confident that we will continue to drive innovative solutions that serve the diverse needs of our region in the years and decades to come.

Learn more about our work and our mission, vision, and values.

Leisa Thompson, general manager

Achieving performance excellence

Achieving performance excellence

From our wastewater treatment plant operators and interceptor service workers to our engineers, environmental scientists, and support staff, our reputation for excellence comes from the efforts of our staff. Their commitment to our mission is the driving force behind everything we do.

Protecting public health

Protecting public health

We focus on work that makes a positive impact on the quality of life in our region, like expanding programs that help prevent sewer backups and overflows, as well as tracking the spread of COVID-19 in our communities through wastewater analysis.   

Building strong partnerships

Building strong partnerships

Water is an essential resource that transcends community and watershed boundaries. Our surface and groundwaters in the Twin Cities area move between cities, counties, and states. And some projects — from wastewater collection and treatment to regional water planning management activities — are too complex for most communities to handle alone. That’s why MCES exists — and the partnerships we foster are at the heart of everything we do.

Protecting the environment

Protecting the environment

Clean water and a clean environment are essential to a healthy life, and we are committed to both. We monitor and analyze the water quality of the region’s lakes and rivers; partner with public, private, and nonprofit groups to improve water quality; and assist with watershed planning and management. Our environmental protection work has a direct, positive impact on public health.

Promoting sustainability

Promoting sustainability

Our role in protecting public health and the environment goes beyond cleaning wastewater and water resource planning — we work to minimize our environmental impact by managing our operations in a sustainable way. We invest in renewable energy resources, conserve and reuse water, recover nutrients from biosolids, and adapt our work continuously as we plan for climate change impacts.

Supporting community growth

Supporting community growth

Guided by a long-range plan, we are committed to ensuring sufficient wastewater system capacity as our communities develop and grow. We ensure that wastewater collection and treatment is competitive for cost and quality, and we invest in our infrastructure to preserve water quality in the region. We also work closely with our community partners to ensure that local plans provide for adequate water supply while addressing pollution sources such as agricultural stormwater runoff. 

Developing our workforce

Developing our workforce

Our skilled, dedicated workforce is the foundation of our success. From machinists, electricians, and plant operators to interceptor service workers, engineers, environmental scientists, and additional support staff, our 630 employees share a commitment to protecting public health and the environment. We sharpened our focus on workforce development activities in 2021 to invest in our people and our future.

Finances

Finances

We keep our rates low. Wastewater fees average $29 a month per household — about 35% less than other large U.S. wastewater utilities, according to the National Association of Clean Water Agencies.