Catching up on wastewater in a big way

THE CITY OF TRACY RECEIVING A CERTIFICATE OF COMMENDATION from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency came as very good news to Tracy Public Works Director Shane Daniels, shown here by the new treatment ponds to the north of Tracy. Photo / Per Peterson

City awarded for its progress in wastewater management

By Per Peterson

It’s cliché and negative to say taxpayer dollars often get flushed down the toilet, but in this case, that’s a good thing.

The City of Tracy is one of 60 wastewater facilities in southern Minnesota to receive a certificate of commendation from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency for 2021 for outstanding wastewater permit compliance.

To receive this recognition, city facilities were required to demonstrate consistent compliance with monitoring, operations and maintenance requirements, timely submission of all reports to the MPCA and employ staff certified by the MPCA in wastewater operations.

“Up until now, we were releasing pollutants at the wrong time of the year and too much of them into the stream,” said Tracy City Administrator Erik Hansen. “This award basically says that we are no longer doing that. We are no longer releasing pollutants into the stream at the wrong time, in the wrong amounts. We are now in compliance, which means the system is clean. You will see direct benefits from this — being able to grow the city, being environmentally responsible; you can physically see it.”

This is the first time in roughly the last two decades the City of Tracy has been in compliance with state regulations, and the commendation is the first for the City since at least the 1990s.

“They give (the award) out every year … basically since the 1990s, we haven’t met the requirements of the permit for our wastewater system,” said Tracy Public Works Director Shane Daniels. “You have discharge windows in the spring and one in the fall, so you need to have all of your discharging done within those windows, and you have to have enough storage to make it to fall before the fall discharge.”

Because the City of Tracy’s old wastewater system was undersized, the spring discharge, Daniels said, took place in the summer after heavy rain events. A discharge is when water is released from the ponds, and until now, that discharge into the receiving streams has carried too many contaminants and at the wrong time.

“It’s your total suspended solids, things you can see, dissolved solids, things you can’t see,” Daniels said.

Those are classified as pollutants by the Environmental Protection Agency. Every city has to release a certain amount of waste during those two windows of time, and since there wasn’t enough capacity, the City of Tracy has been releasing more pollutants into the stream than it’s supposed to up to this year.

That’s the first time the City has been able to say that in about 20 years.

See this week’s Headlight Herald for more on this article.