MPCA, city of Albert Lea seeking ways to reduce chloride in wastewater to river

Published 8:00 pm Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Minnesota has a growing salty water problem that threatens its freshwater fish and other aquatic life. It takes only one teaspoon of salt to pollute five gallons of water. Once in the water, there is no easy way to remove it.

According to a Minnesota Pollution Control Agency press release, in southern Minnesota, the city of Albert Lea has too much chloride in its wastewater discharge to the Shell Rock River to meet the state water quality standard designed to protect aquatic life. Water softening is the likely source of chloride in the city’s wastewater. Softeners use chloride salts and the resulting brine goes down the drain to the city’s wastewater treatment plant. Like other facilities, it is not designed to remove chloride from the wastewater and the chloride is discharged to the river.

To gain time to study the problem and develop solutions, the city has applied for a variance in its wastewater discharge permit from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA). The application requires a public meeting, which the MPCA will host Sept. 21, starting at 5:30 p.m. via Webex. The MPCA will provide information about Albert Lea’s proposed permit and chloride variance, as well as state resources for addressing this issue. Those attending will have also an opportunity to ask questions and provide comments. To access the meeting:

  • Go to the Minnesota Webex meeting webpage
  • Choose the “join from browser” option
  • When prompted, type in your name
  • Click the “join as a guest” button
  • If prompted for the meeting number (access code), type in 146 787 5353
  • If prompted for the password, type in QDgHyJ7N4A5

The draft permit for Albert Lea’s wastewater discharge is open for public comment through Oct. 4. It is available for review on the MPCA’s Public Notice webpage (scroll to Aug. 2). All municipal wastewater facilities must abide by the federal Clean Water Act, designed to protect water resources in the United States. In Minnesota, the MPCA is responsible for implementing this federal law, as well as corresponding state laws, by issuing permits that set conditions and limit pollutants for wastewater discharges to lakes, streams and other resources.