News Feature | May 14, 2018

In Minnesota, $1.5B Influx Could Help Wastewater

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

lake minnesota reg new

Wastewater utilities may benefits from a bonding bill under consideration this year in Minnesota, where lawmakers may pump as much as $1.5 billion into infrastructure and other projects.

At least 300 cities across the state “are dealing with wastewater treatment plants that are in desperate need of upgrades, especially with new state and federal standards to keep waterways clean. It’s become a $22 million problem in this tiny city, one that will likely mean more than doubling monthly fees residents pay to flush away their wastewater,” MinnPost reported.

The bill could be as large as $1.5 billion, with a potential $167 million reserved for wastewater projects, the report said.

Various towns are lobbying state lawmakers to make that happen. The need for funding in this state is deep, and small communities are saddled with the burden.

“The city of Albert Lea, with a population of about 18,000 people, is facing a $72 million bill for its wastewater treatment project, which could cause wastewater rates to triple to roughly $90 per month. In Glencoe, city officials have already approved increased wastewater and sewage fees on residents from $33 per month to $65 per month. The city of Redwood Falls, a city of about 5,200 people, faces $16 million in costs to update their wastewater facilities. Marshall, a city of about 13,600, is facing a $10 million project that could force it to increase water prices by 35 percent,” the report stated.

David Sturrock, a Marshall City Council member, explained: “It’s nearly dire for cities with 1,000, 2,000 or 3,000 population.”

Even if this legislation passes, Minnesota’s wastewater needs will remain significant. Estimates from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency say there will be $5 billion needed for wastewater treatment improvements in the state in the next two decades.

An additional Minnesota legislative development related to the water sector: Governor Mark Dayton vetoed an attempt to kill a pollution rule because he said it was a violation of the Clean Water Act.

The bill, “passed by the Republican-controlled House and Senate, was the latest in a nearly 10-year political and legal battle over Minnesota’s official state grain. At issue is a state standard governing water quality and sulfate, a mineral salt that is hazardous to wild rice and is produced mainly by mining operations and wastewater treatment plants,” The Star Tribune reported.

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