Environmental group appeals CLRSD permit decisionAn environmental group is appealing a decision that gave the Central Lakes Region Sanitary District (CLRSD) a permit for a sewage treatment plant on the Long Prairie River.
An environmental group is appealing a decision that gave the Central Lakes Region Sanitary District (CLRSD) a permit for a sewage treatment plant on the Long Prairie River.
The Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy (MCEA) filed statements with the Minnesota Court of Appeals Friday saying that the plant will dump too much pollution into the river.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency granted the permit last month for the new plant.
In its appeal, the MCEA said the permit would violate the federal Clean Water Act because it will allow too much phosphorus into the river, which ultimately dumps into Lake Pepin, a lake already listed as having too much phosphorus.
“The Pollution Control Agency’s decision to allow more phosphorus to be discharged into the Lake Pepin watershed by the Central Lakes wastewater treatment facility directly conflicts with the agency’s responsibility to clean up and protect Lake Pepin, one of Minnesota’s great water resources,” said Mary Marrow, the MCEA lawyer who filed the appeal in a news release. “Federal and state law require the Pollution Control Agency to take steps to make sure Minnesota’s polluted waters improve, not worsen. By allowing this additional phosphorus, the agency has failed its duty to be a guardian of Minnesota’s waters.”
Phosphorus pollution is a problem for many of Minnesota’s lakes and rivers. It is one of the chief causes of summer algae blooms and the growth of slime.
When a lake, such as Pepin, is impaired with too much phosphorus, federal law prohibits the state from authorizing new discharges until there is a clean-up plan.
The MPCA is still working on the Lake Pepin plan, Marrow noted, so the CLRSD facility should not be allowed to add new phosphorus to the lake.
In a court case two years ago, the Minnesota Supreme Court allowed the MPCA to issue a permit for a new facility as long as the additional phosphorus was “offset” by a reduction at a different treatment plant.
In that case, even though a new source of phosphorus was permitted, the court determined that the overall discharge of the pollutant to Lake Pepin declined, so the new facility was allowed, Marrow said.
In this case, the agency says it required a “reduction” in the pollution going to Lake Pepin to offset the new Central Lakes discharge. But the reduction is on paper only, according to Marrow.
The MPCA has proposed a trade between the new Central Lakes facility and the Albertville sewage plant.
According to Marrow, however, this trade does not help Lake Pepin because the only change is that the “permitted” phosphorus discharge from the Albertville plant has shrunk from 1,277 kilograms per year to 1,029 kilograms year. Albertville has consistently dumped about 310 kilograms per year into Lake Pepin, so the permit change makes no difference, Marrow said.
The new CLRSD load will not be “offset” and Pepin’s phosphorus pollution will get worse, which the MCEA believes is a violation of the federal law.