Water Quality Standards

MESERB works to ensure that water quality standards that impact municipal wastewater facilities are based on open and transparent science, independently reviewed and result in meaningful benefits to water quality. Water quality standards issues that MESERB is currently focused on include:

  • Wild Rice Sulfate
  • Chloride (and other salty parameters)
  • Total Nitrogen Standard
  • Mercury
  • River and Lake Euthrophication Standards
  • Antidegradation

For information on current, future, and completed rulemaking projects, please visit the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s Public Rulemaking Docket.

Innovative Approaches to NPDES Permitting

MESERB is always looking for innovate implementation methods to address water quality regulations to achieve maximum environmental benefit while responsibly utilizing state and local resources. Such activities include:

  • Water Quality Trading – Working to research and develop a more flexible trading framework including point to non-point trading.
  • Integrative Planning – Working to develop a framework that allows municipalities to meet regulatory obligations while optimizing infrastructure investments through prioritization and sequencing of work.
  • Plant Optimization – Working with members to identify, develop and share plant optimization techniques and technologies to maximize efficiency in existing infrastructure.

Public Notices and Requests for Comments

  • Public Comment Period Now Open on Groundwater Protection Rule The Department of Agriculture has opened an 80-day public comment period on its proposed Groundwater Protection Rule. The rule is aimed at reducing elevated in nitrate levels in groundwater by regulating the use of nitrogen fertilizer where soils are vulnerable to leaching and where drinking water supplies have high nitrate levels. A series of public hearings will be held in July for comment; the schedule can be found here. Comments can be submitted through the OAH site and are due August 2.
  • Draft Water Quality Report and Notice of Comment for Mississippi River Headwaters. The watershed that includes the Mississippi River Headwaters has very good overall water quality, and forest protection is critical to preserve it, according the draft TMDL and WRAPS documents recently released by the MPCA and local partners. Two lakes in Beltrami County are impaired for phosphorus. The MPCA is seeking public comments on the reports through July 5, 2018. 
  • EPA to evaluate how it considers costs and benefits in the rulemaking process. In this advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM), the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is soliciting comment on whether and how it should promulgate regulations that provide a consistent and transparent interpretation relating to the consideration of weighing costs and benefits in making regulatory decisions. The EPA is also soliciting comment on whether and how these regulations, if promulgated, could prescribe specific analytic approaches to quantifying the costs and benefits of EPA regulations. Comments must be received on or before July 13, 2018. 
  • Notice of availability of the draft Lake Superior North Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategies (WRAPS) Report and Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDL) Report for the Flute Reed River and request for comment. Only one of 67 streams and 152 lakes evaluated for water quality standards along Lake Superior’s far North Shore does not meet the state’s criteria. The Flute Reed River’s sediment levels are higher than allowed under state standards and are impacting clear water and clean gravel stream habitat for trout. The sediment impairs the trout’s ability to capture food and lay eggs, potentially leading to a population decline. For humans, too much sediment reduces the enjoyment for swimming and other aquatic recreation. The Poplar River, previously listed as impaired due to excessive sediment, is greatly improved after a decade of local landowners’ efforts to tackle stormwater runoff,   erosion and slumping bluffs. As a result, the MPCA is proposing to remove its impaired status. Four lakes: Deeryard, Poplar, Devil Track and Tom are showing downward trends in transparency (cloudy water conditions), but still meet state standards. The remaining assessed water bodies meet all criteria for healthy conditions and are the focus of protection efforts. Comments are due July 18, 2018.
  • Notice of availability and request for comments on draft Thief River Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy and Total Maximum Daily Load Reports. The Thief River Watershed is a tributary of the Red Lake River in the Red River of the North Basin. Most of the Thief River Watershed area lies within Marshall, Pennington and Beltrami counties. Research linked the watershed’s water pollution with land alterations and/or runoff:
    • More than 90 percent of the watershed’s stream sections have been straightened or channelized to promote drainage.
    • Straightening streams impairs habitat, water quality, and fish and aquatic insect communities.
    • A portion of the Mud River is impaired for swimming due to excessive bacteria.
    • The Mud and Moose Rivers show low dissolved oxygen levels which are harmful to fish and aquatic insects.
    • The Thief River, between Agassiz Wildlife Refuge and Thief River Falls has sediment levels that can make the water too cloudy to sustain fish.

    Comments are due July 25, 2018.