BEMIDJI -- The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is drafting a new permit for Bemidji's wastewater treatment plant and is inviting the public to comment on the process.

The comment period opened Dec. 22 and will close Feb. 22. Those who do submit their comments are asked to describe their interest in the draft permit and the action they want the MPCA to take.

Additionally, those who comment are asked to cite sections of the draft permit they want to change and the reasons supporting those opinions. Comments and petitions can be submitted to Amanda Wilkens of the MPCA at 7678 College Road, Suite 105, Baxter, MN 56425. Wilkens can also be emailed at amanda.wilkens@state.mn.us.

The Bemidji Wastewater Treatment Plant is a 35-year-old building located near where the Mississippi River meets Lake Bemidji and Lake Irving. The facility's last permit was issued in December 2014 and expired in November 2019.

Following the expiration of the permit, city officials stated that the standards of the previous permit would be maintained until the MPCA issues a new one.

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According to state documents, the new permit will include monitoring for nitrogen at a frequency of once per month. The monitoring will provide data necessary to develop a better understanding of the total nitrogen being received and discharged from municipal and industrial wastewater treatment plants such as Bemidji's.

After a more extensive total nitrogen data set is established by the MPCA, the draft permit notes that nitrogen reduction work can begin to achieve the necessary reductions to meet the goal of a 20% reduction in total nitrogen at discharging facilities by 2025.

Once approved, the permit will also require the city to submit an updated mercury minimization plan to the MPCA within 180 days of the issuance. The permit will also contain requirements for mercury monitoring and limits.

For more information, visit www.pca.state.mn.us/public-notices.