Thursday, April 15, 2021
The effluent pipe that drains into the Straight River from Medford's Wastewater Treatment Plant dumped biosolids into the Straight River in April 2020, prompting an investigation and fine from the MPCA.

MPCA fines Medford for 2020 spills

The City of Medford received a $5,100 fine for two spills that occurred in 2020 from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency with an additional directive to begin fixing the city's wastewater problems immediately.

"The spill in April was from a check valve malfunction," said Jed Peterson, administrative director of operations. "This allowed sludge from a holding tank to drain back through the system and out the effluent pipe into the river."

"The overflow that occurred in December is estimated to be about 500 gallons," said Peterson, referring to the second spill. "This overflow ran out of a splitter box onto the grass and did not make it to the river."

While the fine's cost is less than the city anticipated, it does carry additional costs due to the MPCA insisting the city fix its wastewater woes.

Both spills occurred before Peterson assumed his position with the city.

The first spill, which dumped biosolids into the Straight River, is what initially prompted the MPCA to look into the city's wastewater issues. "If we don't do corrective action, they could come back on us and start fining us $20,000 a day until that gets done," Peterson said. "So, our hands are kind of tied to resolving that issue."

During Monday night's regular city council meeting, Peterson told the council that installing a fine screen would remedy the current issues. After the removal of a grinder, the city had installed an insufficient screen which did not stop all of the debris and resulted in clogs in parts of the system.

The council opted to purchase a new screen for the price of $59,000 from Huber Technology. "We like the Huber because it's cheaper and it has a smaller footprint," said Peterson. There will be additional costs to install the screen.

"If we, let's say, hook up to another entity, we can reuse that screen and it will not just go to waste. It will still continue to be used," said Peterson when asked how the purchase of the screen might factor into any future decision to connect the city's wastewater with another neighboring community.

After installing the screen, Peterson will be required to submit a report to the MPCA confirming that the city has corrected that issue. "I have to document that we have corrected that action," Peterson said.


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Steele County Times

Steele County Times
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