Help may be on the way for state’s polluted water

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More help for more of the state’s polluted waters may be possible after the House passed HF819 by a vote of 130-0 Friday.

Rep. Mary Murphy (DFL-Hermantown), the bill’s sponsor, assured her colleagues several times on the House Floor that HF819 contained no money — those appropriations will be considered when the omnibus legacy bill, HF1183, is debated Saturday — but said more of their constituents could benefit from the technical changes this bill makes.

Those include an expansion of the Total Maximum Daily Load grant program administered by the Public Facilities Authority. A total maximum daily load is the calculation of the maximum amount of a pollutant a body of water can receive and still safely meet water quality standards.

The PFA program provides grants to units of local governments, and HF819 expands it to allow for projects necessary to meet limits for certain phosphorous, nitrogen or other water quality effluents.

It also eliminates some requirements that must be satisfied before the PFA awards those grants. For example, the Pollution Control Agency no longer has to certify a TMDL plan, which includes a source wasteload allocation, to the Environmental Protection Agency, and have EPA then approve it.

The bill would also increase the maximum grant amounts from $10,000 to $20,000, plus $1,000 (up from $500) for each household up to a maximum of $60,000 (up from $40,000).

In addition, the new maximum amount that could be awarded for a project under the small community wastewater treatment program would be $2 million. It had been $500,000 per year, up to three years.

The bill now goes to the Senate where Sen. Bev Scalze (DFL-Little Canada) is the sponsor.