March 12, 2020 Blog

Sarah Mason-Renton, Business Development Manager, recently attended the 37th Annual Innovative Approaches to Wastewater Operations Conference in St. Cloud, Minnesota, on February 4th. This conference was organized by the Central States Water Environment Association (CSWEA) and the Minnesota Wastewater Operators Association (MWOA).

The conference focused on emerging issues and innovative approaches to operations and management across the state of Minnesota.

Aaron Luckstein, from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, kicked off the conference with a presentation on Innovative Permitting Approaches which emphasized beneficial use as a priority for water quality and residuals management. Luckstein provided an overview of various innovative approaches to permitting, including compliance and construction schedules, variances, integrated planning, watershed (rather than site) permitting, water quality trading, and adaptive management. Take home messages included the importance of determining a utility’s needs and goals, evaluating options, understanding risks and rewards, not being afraid to ask questions and work through tough decisions, and talking to others about their experiences.

Keynote speaker, Chad Pregracke of Living Lands and Waters, giving an incredibly engaging talk, From the Bottom Up, a Quest to Clean America’s Major Rivers. Since 1998, Chad has been working to remove and recover over 10.7 Million pounds of trash from America’s major rivers with the help of his team and over 115,000 volunteers. He commented that the environmental can only be fixed “tire by tire and barrel by barrel”. Chad connected his work and Organizations’ overall mission to preserve and clean America’s watersheds with the wastewater operators in the crowd. He applauded the important work these wastewater utilities do to mitigate nutrient and contaminant pollution and how much harder his job would be if not for the great work of wastewater utilities across the country.

Lunch was followed by short presentations from the various exhibitors highlighting innovative treatment processes, technologies, and analysis techniques. Lystek was thrilled to be invited to participate in this event by our customers in St. Cloud and had a number of valuable conversations with other utilities, regulators, and consulting engineers in the region.

The day concluded with a number of presentations highlighting various operator innovations including using GIS in the land application of biosolids, overcoming operational challenges associated with ‘flushable’ wipes, screen cleaning improvements, additional revenue streams, and infrared heat as a solution to frozen FOG.
Thanks to CSWEA, the MWOA, and all the folks involved on the organizing committee for putting on an excellent day highlighting the various innovative approaches to wastewater operations.

Contact Sarah Mason-Renton,, if you have further questions about this event.