Stimulus money flows to wastewater

In U’s Minnesota Technical Assistance Program interns research wastewater treatment and reuse.

Federal stimulus funds will have leaked more than $82.5 million to clean water infrastructure in Minnesota by mid August, but this is only a fraction of what some say statewide facilities need. Municipal wastewater facilities statewide have identified more than $1.2 billion in needs, said Lisa Thorvig, municipal division director at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds are âÄúnot a whole lot of money relative to all the needs we have with regard to wastewater,âÄù she said. The stimulus funds have gone toward projects like sanitary sewer rehabilitation and wastewater treatment plant improvements. Wastewater in Minnesota is primarily directed to treatment facilities like the Metropolitan Wastewater Treatment Plant in St. Paul, which treats 75 percent of Twin Cities wastewater, including what is generated at the University of Minnesota. Another $10 million was transferred from the Drinking Water Revolving Fund to clean water projects to meet what Thorvig said was a âÄúcrushing demand for ARRA funding.âÄù Enforcement actions administered by the Pollution Control Agency for pollution violations were more than $500,000 between April and June. Minnesota pollution violations have already totaled more than $1.5 million in 2009, whereas the total violations costs in 2008 were $1.6 million. Although the totals include other forms of environmental pollution, many are water quality fines for leaks in treatment systems and storm water violations, including a $10,000 water quality violation by the UniversityâÄôs TCF Bank Stadium on May 21. Water pumped from the stadium construction site was flowing into a nearby storm sewer inlet, creating a plume in the Mississippi River, construction storm water inspector Teddi Seibring Trofin said. Since May, the stadium has revealed that its outdoor plaza will double as a filter for storm water. The installation company, Rehbein Environmental Solutions Inc. , said the underground filter system would function instead of a traditional storm water holding pond. Storm water differs from wastewater because it drains from land to a collection system, whether that is an underground watershed or a designated pond, and then directly to rivers and lakes. Wastewater is created through processes like washing the dishes or flushing the toilet, and flows to a treatment facility. Chemicals like antibiotics and cleaner that end up in wastewater are a growing issue for facilities, said Sara Christopherson, state extension specialist at the UniversityâÄôs Water Resources Center . She said researchers do not know at what level the chemicals could cause human problems, and do not have a way to treat the chemical pollutants. But two summer interns from the UniversityâÄôs Minnesota Technical Assistance Program are working to find ways to remove these chemical contaminants. âÄúThe chemical industry has always been the major industry in the U.S., and there is always going to be a need to treat our water and make it clean for use âĦ because there is not a whole lot out there,âÄù said University of Minnesota graduate Scott Trantina, who is investigating industrial wastewater reuse in his internship at Siemens Water Technologies . Patrick Liesch, a senior at Minnesota State University, Mankato, is an intern at contract engineering and manufacturing company Lou-Rich , where he works to eliminate zinc from wastewater and minimize water usage in cleaning materials. He said he is concerned over the worldâÄôs limited water supply, but âÄúif you keep treating [wastewater], if you can keep reusing it, it kind of preserves the amount of fresh water we have.âÄù Conservation practices in Minnesota are becoming increasingly widespread. Trantina said environmental regulations are becoming tighter as people are becoming more knowledgeable and concerned about our impact on the environment