Protecting Public Health

Two employees at work in the Metro Plant lab.24 hours a day, 365 days a year, our employees are on the job operating our wastewater treatment plants. Employees also monitor water quality in our rivers and streams, test water samples in our laboratory, plan for our future water supply, and much more. 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.


Tracking COVID-19 in wastewater

“Monitoring for disease agents in our wastewater influent is a new way for us to continue to help protect public health and the environment.”
 

— George Sprouse, manager of Process Engineering, Research and Development, and Air Quality

Research scientists at our Metro Plant in 2021 continued to monitor levels of the SARS-CoV-2 viral material entering the plant in wastewater. Viral load in sewage has emerged as an important indicator of the prevalence of COVID-19 in the population served by our wastewater system, often before community testing shows the same trends. MCES partners with the University of Minnesota Genomics Center on the research. We also provided wastewater samples to several state and national studies.

“Our research increases our capacity to respond to future outbreaks of infectious diseases and our ability to improve upon our monitoring processes,” said George Sprouse, manager of Process Engineering, Research and Development, and Air Quality. “Monitoring for disease agents in our wastewater influent is a new way for us to continue to help protect public health and the environment.”

Learn more about our involvement with COVID-19 wastewater surveillance.

A sewer service lateral from a home connects to a regional sanitary sewer pipe.

Preventing inflow and infiltration with point-of-sale programs

Inflow and infiltration (I/I) is clear water — stormwater and groundwater — that enters the wastewater system. It can overload the system and cause costly sewer backups into homes and buildings. Excess I/I can also damage pipes and treatment systems and cause sewer overflows into rivers and lakes. That’s why reducing I/I is so important to the integrity of the wastewater system and the health of its users and the environment.

One effective way to reduce I/I is by repairing private sewer service pipes that lead from a home or business to local sewer mains. Recently, the cities of Mounds View, Newport, Orono, St. Anthony Village, and Tonka Bay adopted point-of-sale sewer inspection ordinances. Other cities, such as Golden Valley, already have point-of-sale ordinances in place.

Point-of-sale programs help property buyers and sellers find and repair any issues with the sewer service when a home or business is sold. Sewer repairs can be costly, so buyers and sellers can negotiate that cost, if needed, as part of the sale of the property.

Read about a local study that showed the effectiveness of such programs in reducing I/I and learn about programs that can help finance sewer inspections and repairs.