- Associated Press - Friday, October 3, 2014

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Three groups representing Minnesota cities plan to sue the state Pollution Control Agency in an effort to change new water-quality rules that aim to reduce phosphorus emissions in waterways.

The Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities, the League of Minnesota Cities and the Minnesota Environmental Science and Economic Review Board planned to file the challenge with the Minnesota Court of Appeals on Friday. The new standards deserve an additional peer review because they surpass federal limits without a solid scientific basis, according to the groups.

“Everyone supports clean water,” said Heidi Omerza, president of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities. “But this time state regulators have gone too far.”

The new standards are so stringent that they will cost local governments millions of dollars in upgrades to water and sewage-treatment plants, according to dozens of cities represented by the three groups.

Depending on what studies determine about the nutrient load in Lake Pepin, into which treated wastewater flows via the Redwood River, Marshall may be required to reduce phosphorus emissions. Then the city’s treatment plant would likely have to go through a $5 million to $10 million reconstruction, according to Bob Van Moer, the plant’s superintendent.

“That would be a monster, financially,” he said.

Moorhead could face similar financial burdens, according to city engineer Bob Zimmerman. He said the agency could force a redesign of the city’s sewage treatment permit, increasing costs by as much as $10 million throughout the next two decades.

“Up here on the Red, it doesn’t do any good to set individual limits if everyone else is polluting the hell out of the river,” Zimmerman said. “It would create an economic disparity for us here in Moorhead.”

State Pollution Control Agency officials declined to comment Thursday, the Star Tribune (http://strib.mn/1oGScgF ) reported.

The new clean-water standards, which were adopted by the agency in June, mainly affect streams and rivers since the state’s lakes have had their own phosphorus standards since 2008.

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Information from: Star Tribune, http://www.startribune.com

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