The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has responded to a lawsuit the city of Osakis filed in Ramsey County District Court on Wednesday, Sept. 30.

As reported in the Echo Press last week, the city is challenging the MPCA's intention to enforce what the city says is an erroneous permit limit on the city’s wastewater treatment facility.

For more than eight years, Osakis has been at odds with the MPCA over a phosphorus limit that was included in the city’s wastewater discharge permit issued in 2012. According to city leaders, the MPCA has acknowledged that it erred in including the phosphorus limit at issue by improperly applying water quality standards applicable only to lakes to a wetland, yet the agency has refused to remove the limit or correct its error in a manner consistent with federal and state law.

After being contacted by the newspaper for a response, the MPCA provided the following statement on Monday, Oct. 5:

“Phosphorus pollution in Minnesota’s waters puts human health at risk and diminishes the economic vitality of our communities," stated Darin Broton, the agency's senior advisor and director of communications. "The MPCA and community partners take a holistic approach to addressing phosphorus in Minnesota because our waters are interconnected. If phosphorus is not adequately addressed in our waters, then downstream communities and residents will experience the consequences of inaction.”

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The MPCA has informed the city that it intends to enforce the limit when it takes effect in July 2021, which would subject the city to potential fines and penalties for noncompliance with the limit unless the courts intervene. According to the city’s engineering study, the costs to upgrade its treatment facility to comply with the limit could range between $8 million to $13 million — a cost that would fall on Osakis residents and businesses.