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COVID-19 Surveillance Monitoring in Wastewater
Throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemics, scientists have embraced various methods to more comprehensively track the spread of COVID-19 in communities and across the world. Tracking the spread of COVID-19 through wastewater has proven to be an incredibly effective tool for understanding the true spread of the disease. Scientists measure the concentration of SARS-CoV-2 viral materials present in wastewater to tell how the disease is spreading within a wastewater service area at a particular time.
This tracking is effective because it looks at an entire service area – nearly every person in the service area will be utilizing the wastewater treatment systems, so a more comprehensive, community-wide picture is able to be developed.
Regardless of whether or not a person is tested or even symptomatic, the viral load can be traced through their contributions to the wastewater treatment system. This is particularly valuable, because an increasing segment of the community may be performing at-home tests which may not be reported to state health officials.
Virus shedding begins before a person tests positive or shows symptoms, which means that the virus is detectable in wastewater before a person may seek a test or medical care. This advanced notice can help predict disease trends and provide early warning for future outbreaks.
Sampling in St. Cloud
St. Cloud started sampling and analysis of daily samples starting in January 2022. St. Cloud has a regional wastewater treatment facility and provides wastewater services to 6 cities: St. Cloud, Sartell, Sauk Rapids, St. Joseph, St. Augusta, and Waite Park. The facility treats roughly 10 million gallons per day. The COVID-19 data from the St. Cloud treatment facility reflects data across a wide service area.
Currently, the daily samples are being analyzed at the University of Minnesota Genomics Center. There are also samples being sent to the University of Minnesota Duluth Medical Center. These samples are an important service for providing community health updates and advancing scientific knowledge.
Nationally Recognized for Innovation, Improvement and Excellence
Some of St. Cloud Public Utilities Department's core values are of Innovation, Improvement and Excellence. These values have been recognized by other industry professionals, and St. Cloud has been honored to see that reflected in the recognition we have been given for our work in the fields of wastewater treatment, water protection, resource recovery, innovative funding, and more.
The Public Utilities Department includes drinking water treatment and distribution, wastewater conveyance and treatment, biofuel utilization, stormwater collection and treatment, nutrient recovery, and hydroelectric energy production. It casts a wide net and consists of 55 water quality and energy professionals. A feature in the Central States Water Environment Association details the utility culture that has brought so many innovative, creative and water-focused projects in St. Cloud, and goes into depth on recent projects the City has completed.
"The departmental vision of advocating innovation and continuous improvement in the services provided is well established. ‘Finding a better way’ is discussed and acted on daily. This mindset and culture is accepted, nurtured, implemented, and expanded to help St. Cloud become a national leader in providing innovative public services." The entire article can be read here Version OptionsPublic UtilitiesHeadlineTake a Virtual TourMinnesota Public Facilities Authority (PFA).
More features on the St. Cloud Public Utilities Department include:
- 2022 "Innovation at wastewater plant propels St. Cloud to renewable energy leader" - Star Tribune
- 2022 "St. Cloud Testing Wastewater to Track COVID, Predict Future Surges" - KNSI
- 2021 "St. Cloud adding new techniques to drinking water treatment" - St. Cloud Times
- 2021 "This Minnesota City Casts a Wide Net in Capturing Efficiencies and Sustainable Practices" - Treatment Plant Operator Magazine
- 2020 "EPA recognizes excellence and innovation in clean water and drinking water infrastructure projects" - WaterWorld
- 2020 "St Cloud Undertakes Extensive Renewable Energy Efforts" - Clean Energy Resource Team
- 2019 "GREATER Innovative, Improvement, and Excellence in St. Cloud" - Central States Water Environment Association Magazine
- 2019 "St. Cloud Wastewater Plant Model for State" - KNSI Radio
- 2019 "Sen. Tina Smith visits St. Cloud to tour wastewater facility, promote Clean Energy Standard Act" - St. Cloud Times
- 2019 "Minnesota is proving than an environmental challenge also can be a great economic opportunity" - Star Tribune
- 2018 "Getting more than a buzz: St. Cloud uses beer, byproducts to fuel wastewater plant" - St. Cloud Times
- 2018 "More cities across Minnesota are turning to renewable sources of energy" - Star Tribune
Part of the national recognition that St. Cloud has received for their work, includes the following awards:
Take a Virtual Tour
Explore the City’s Solar Energy Sites and Lake George Improvements
City of Saint Cloud's Solar Energy Sites
Take a virtual tour of the City of St. Cloud's sources of solar energy. The City gets solar energy from solar arrays mounted on city-owned properties as well as community solar gardens. Take the tour and explore the solar energy sites here.
Lake George Improvements
Lake George is a centerpiece and gathering place for our local community. Learn more about what St. Cloud has been doing to ensure water quality and keep Lake George a vibrant and beautiful part of our city by going to our Lake George Water Quality Improvement Storymap.
Minnesota Public Facilities Authority (PFA)
The Clean Water SRF is supported through a combination of federal capitalization grants from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, state matching funds, loan repayments, and bond proceeds from PFA revenue bonds. Since 1989, Minnesota's Clean Water SRF has received $744 million in federal funds. These funds have been leveraged almost 4 to 1 by the PFA to award more than 500 wastewater loans totaling over $2.8 billion.
- Wastewater Conveyance System Improvements
The St. Cloud Wastewater Conveyance System has 300 miles of sanitary sewer pipe ranging in size from 6” – 72” and 34 lift stations that convey wastewater to the St. Cloud Nutrient, Energy & Water Recovery Facility. The wastewater conveyance system is growing and aging. There are areas where improvements are needed based on age, exceedance of useful life cycle, equipment condition and conveyance capacity limitations due to growth. The primary improvements included in this project are related to lift stations 5, 6, 7, 11, 14 and 15.
- Water Treatment Facility Advanced Process Improvements and Upgrades Project
July 15, 2020: The Minnesota PFA approved a financing agreement to the City of St. Cloud for the Advanced Process Improvements and Upgrades Project at the Water Treatment Facility. The PFA financing package includes a $40,055,140, 20 year loan at 1.025% interest. Once completed this project will achieve advanced treatment to meet current and potential future Safe Drinking Water Act regulations for the next 30 years ensuring safe, cleaning drinking water for the customers of St. Cloud and St. Augusta.
Successful completion of the Pilot Study resulted in the identification and confirmation of a preferred advanced water treatment process alternative to address taste and order (T&O) control, primary disinfection, and Disinfection Byproduct (DBP) control. The preferred alternative will incorporate ozone for advanced oxidation, followed by biologically activated carbon (BAC) filtration, ultraviolet (UV) light for primary disinfection, and chlorine/chloramine secondary disinfection.
In addition to the proposed treatment process improvements, the Project will include the following general WTF upgrades: replacement of aging and problematic intake and WTF equipment; architectural improvements to optimize facility personnel areas and repair roofing systems; mechanical improvements to address undersized and inefficient heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment; and required electrical and instrumentation and control upgrades.
- October 3, 2017: The Minnesota PFA approved a financing agreement to the City of St. Cloud for improvements to their wastewater system. The PFA's financing package consists of a $16,712029 Clean Water State Revolving Fund 20-year loan with an interest rate of 1.095%. Once completed, the project improved water quality, by improving the solids treatment process and the biosolids recycling (NR2) program.
- June 22, 2016: The Minnesota PFA approved a financing agreement to the City of St. Cloud for rehabilitation of the City's main lift station. The PFA's financing package consists of a $4,062,885 Clean Water Revolving Fund 20-year loan with and interest rate of 1.00%. The funds are from Minnesota's Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRF). The project will help St. Cloud continue to protect and preserve water quality by maintaining and improving the wastewater treatment facilities.
The mission of the Public Utilities Department is to provide utility services to our customers in a safe, cost-effective manner, while providing excellent customer service and protecting the environment.