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Published November 16, 2012, 08:26 PM

Are expensive upgrades coming soon for Moorhead’s waste water plant?

Moorhead, MN (WDAY TV) -- Moorhead could be looking at millions of dollars to upgrade its waste water treatment plant. An environmental group has effectively blocked the renewal of the plant's license with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

Moorhead, MN (WDAY TV) -- Moorhead could be looking at millions of dollars to upgrade its waste water treatment plant. An environmental group has effectively blocked the renewal of the plant's license with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

Cleaned water flows into the Red River in North Moorhead from the cities waste water treatment plant. But it could according to a Twin Cities Based Environmental group there is too much phosphorus in the water coming out of this pipe.

Andrew Bradshaw/Moorhead Utilities Manager: "We were surprised not to see any kind of phosphorus limit. So we looked at the last 3 years and saw that the concentration average was 3.4 mg per liter and most facilities of this size in Minnesota have a limit of 1mg per liter."

The Moorhead treatment plant needs to be re-licensed every 5 years and because of the concerns by the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy that renewal may be put on hold.

Bradshaw: "We were a little bit surprised by this, it was real close to being reissued and it was kind of a last minute change in the permit re-issuance."

The plant may need to be upgraded to take out phosphorus to be re- licensed

Bradshaw: "It's hard to pin point but we would be talking in the millions of dollars."

And resident and business would pick up that bill in higher water costs

In addition to Minnesota regulation there's a 1909 border treaty with Canada that says no pollution can flow across the border that effects water quality.

Phosphorus has lead to algae problems in Lake Winnipeg which can even be seen from satellites. But reducing what's coming from the Moorhead Plant will likely not stop the phosphorus issue.

In terms of Phosphorus contributions statewide in Minnesota, agriculture is the dominant source. Reducing phosphorus and nutrients from the Moorhead facility is certainly not sufficient to solve the problem but it might be part of the solution.

And phosphorus discharges into the Red is not just a Moorhead issue and other cities may face a similar license renewal problem.

The city of Moorhead has not yet officially heard from the state pollution control agency, so it's not sure what actions will be needed.

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