2023 Performance Report

Message from the General Manager

Portrait of Leisa Thompson

We approached 2023 with a goal of realizing our vision of clean water for future generations by fostering an environment of inclusion and partnership in the Environmental Services division at the Metropolitan Council.
To do better together and to meet the needs of our region, we partnered, planned, and provided services to customer communities, government entities, and water professionals. By integrating the Metropolitan Council's climate action criteria into our planning, we signaled our commitment to sustainability and resilience. We showed our commitment to prepare for the challenges of tomorrow through infrastructure resilience, groundbreaking explorations like wastewater heat recovery, and innovative partnerships for finding creative solutions.
Our work in 2023 was rooted in environmental stewardship, excellence, and innovation. We launched our Capital Investment Program planning process, continued processing 250 million gallons of wastewater each day, and supported our industrial partners in maintaining environmental compliance. We also engaged stakeholders to share ideas for the region’s 2050 Water Policy Plan.
Looking back at what we accomplished in 2023, I feel motivated to continue our work and find ways to become more innovative, creative, and connected next year.
Leisa Thompson, General Manager   
Highlights from 2023:

Continuing excellence and compliance

  • The Metropolitan Council’s nine wastewater treatment plants earned high honors for outstanding compliance with federal clean water discharge permits. All nine plants were recognized for their performance with Peak Performance Awards by the National Association of Clean Water Agencies in 2023. The compliance records at the Hastings and St. Croix Valley plants place them among the top five plants in the nation.
  • Public safety remained a top priority for the Met Council as we continued our partnership with local officials to monitor and maintain the regional sanitary sewer systems. In 2022, an explosion near the University of Minnesota, due to the discharge of a flammable liquid into our sanitary sewer system, resulted in a fraternity house fire. Fortunately, there were no injuries. We took a series of actions to avoid a repeat occurrence in the future.
  • In 2023, the Met Council continued its successful 20-year partnership with the Minnesota Dental Association. The voluntary Amalgam Recovery Program incentivizes dental clinics in the Met Council’s service area to install amalgam separators – devices that take amalgam out of the wastewater stream before it leaves a facility – with a minimal removal efficiency of 99%. To date, we have measured a 67% reduction in the amount of mercury entering our Metropolitan Wastewater Treatment Plant in Saint Paul.
  • In March 2023, an incredible collaboration helped reunite a woman with her lost diamond ring. Crews working on a piece of machinery at the Rogers Wastewater Treatment Plant spotted a sparkle coming from the muck and made a public appeal to find the ring’s owner.
  • The Met Council, along with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, met with the owners of a local business in Hastings to provide resources for proper disposal of industrial wastewater discharges coming from the business. The Hastings Wastewater Treatment Plant had been experiencing operational challenges due to repeat, prohibited industrial discharges from the local business that clogged the City of Hastings’ and the Met Council’s sewer pipes and put the wastewater treatment plant at high risk for losing functional performance. Hastings Wastewater Treatment Plant went to great lengths to treat the Hastings wastewater flow to protect the public health and the environment and stay within the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System program permit limits. 

Fostering innovative partnerships

  • The Met Council convened a regional task force to address the increasing problem of fats, oils, grease (FOG), and rags in the sewer system. The task force explored industry, community, and residential needs for FOG-related guidance, and delivered a website with educational and outreach materials that provides guidance for keeping FOG and rags out of our sanitary sewers. 
  • The Met Council continued to play a key role in monitoring and analyzing wastewater for the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the metro area. Working as partners with the University of Minnesota Genomics Center, we have reported weekly, since January 2022, on the prevalence of viral RNA in wastewater flowing to the Metro Plant, an important indicator of the spread of the virus.
  • The Met Council worked with a task force of staff from cities and townships in the metro area to develop a grant program that will provide funds to repair private sewer pipes that are a source of groundwater and surface water intrusion. The task force included representatives from Apple Valley, Bloomington, Chanhassen, Columbia Heights, Cottage Grove, Eagan, Edina, Golden Valley, Lauderdale, Minneapolis, Mound, Newport, Saint Paul, St. Anthony, West St. Paul, White Bear Township, and MetroCities. The 2024 Private Property Inflow and Infiltration Grant Program provides $1.5 million in wastewater revenue to provide grants to private property owners to help with repairs that will remove and prevent clear water from entering the wastewater treatment system. 

Preparing for a sustainable future

  • Last year, the Met Council was recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense program with an Excellence in Promoting WaterSense Labeled Products Award. The Met Council awarded water efficiency grants to cities, who in turn offered rebates to residents for replacing older water-using devices with high-efficiency WaterSense-labeled or Energy Star-certified alternatives. In total, 1,056 toilets, 822 irrigation controllers, 131 spray sprinkler bodies, 760 clothes washers, and 571 dishwashers were replaced in homes around the region in 2023. Additionally, 64 irrigation system audits were conducted by WaterSense-approved professionals.
  • As part of its mission to improve water quality and ensure a sustainable water supply for the region, the Met Council is working to plant landscapes that need less water, reduce runoff, and provide habitat for birds, bees, and butterflies. Sustainable landscapes include drought-tolerant turf, bee lawn, and grasses, flowers, trees, and shrubs native to Minnesota.
  • Planning is underway to relocate the current wastewater treatment plant from downtown Hastings to the site of a previous gravel pit on the border of Hastings and Ravenna Township. The existing plant site located in downtown Hastings presents challenges to major renewal, land use compatibility, and expandability of the plant to respond to growth and changes in regulatory requirements. The new plant site provides the ability to expand to support growth in the long-term service area identified in the 2040 Water Resources Policy Plan, which may include land areas in the townships of Marshan, Nininger, or Vermillion. Learn more about the Hastings Wastewater Treatment Plant facility plan.

Learn more about our work and our mission, vision, and values.
Leisa Thompson, general manager

Environmental Services at a glance

Clean water and a clean environment are essential to a healthy life, and our 600+ employees are committed to both. We collect and treat wastewater from 111 cities and townships in the Twin Cities region, serving approximately 2.8 million people. We also monitor air and water quality, and plan for a long-range water supply to meet future demand.

Wastewater collection and treatment

Whenever someone in the Twin Cities region takes a shower, flushes a toilet, or runs a washing machine, the used water is routed to one of our wastewater treatment plants through an extensive network of local and regional sanitary sewer pipes. We own, operate, and maintain the regional wastewater collection and treatment system, which includes:
  • 635 miles of regional sanitary sewers
  • 230 flow meters
  • 60 lift stations
  • 9 wastewater treatment facilities
We also work with approximately 900 industrial users and over 90 liquid waste haulers. In total, our system collects and treats an average of 250 million gallons of wastewater per day; about 70% of this is processed at the Metro Plant in Saint Paul.

Water resources planning and protection

By 2040, the Twin Cities region is projected to grow by 500,000 people, changing how we use and conserve our water resources. Protecting, conserving, and using the region’s groundwater and surface water is critical for the region to thrive. This work includes protecting public health, supporting economic growth and development, maintaining habitat and ecosystem health, and providing recreational opportunities. Clean and plentiful water is essential to our region’s quality of life, and we’re committed to water resources planning and management.

We partner, plan, and provide services to protect our region’s water.

Partnering with communities

Partnering with communities

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. Environmental Services convenes, engages, collaborates, and builds solutions with our customers, stakeholders, and partners to solve those complex problems.

Planning for the future

Planning for the future

Met Council is continually looking to the future and working holistically to ensure clean water for future generations. Guided by a long-range plan, we are committed to supporting sustainable and cost-effective water treatment and water resources protection as our communities develop and grow. We ensure that wastewater collection and treatment is competitive in cost and quality, and we continually access and identify long-term approaches and infrastructure investments.

Providing excellent service

Providing excellent service

24 hours a day, 365 days a year, the Environmental Services team is delivering critical services, tools, and resources to our customer communities and partners. We focus on work that makes a positive impact on the health and quality of life in our region, like expanding programs that help prevent sewer backups and overflows, monitoring chloride levels in regional waterbodies, and tracking the spread of COVID-19 in our communities through wastewater analysis.