ST. CLOUD (WJON News) - Minnesota Governor Tim Walz was in St. Cloud Tuesday to tour the city’s wastewater treatment plant and discuss future development plans.

The Governor has been spending the week touring a number of public infrastructure projects before the 2024 legislative session. The Governor was joined by Senator Aric Putnam, Representative Dan Wolgamott, Mayor Dave Kleis, and Jeff Freeman, the Executive Director at the Minnesota Public Facilities Authority for a comprehensive tour of the plant, and a discussion on how St. Cloud uses wastewater from a number of communities to generate green energy as well as a commercial-grade fertilizer.

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Since 2010, the St. Cloud Wastewater NEW (nutrient, energy, and water) Recovery Facility has introduced a number of first-in-the-nation systems to the drinking water and wastewater treatment systems.

  • 2016-2020: The St. Cloud NR2 project installed a biofuel storage area and a second biofuel generator. St Cloud was the second in the nation to install a Lystek process to create a fertilizer project to be applied on area farm fields.
  • 2020-2024: Advanced drinking water improvements include a first-of-its-kind system that will use ozone, UV disinfection, and a granular activated carbon to reduce contaminants. The City of St. Cloud has requested a loan from the Minnesota Public Facility Authority for $20.7 million for the forcemain and aeration systems, and $4.8 million for the drinking water improvements.
Gov. Tim Walz, and Rep. Dan Wolgamott listen as Public Services Director Tracy Hodel explains the first-in-the -state wastewater plant. Photo: Jeff McMahon, WJON
Gov. Tim Walz, and Rep. Dan Wolgamott listen as Public Services Director Tracy Hodel explains the first-in-the -state wastewater plant. Photo: Jeff McMahon, WJON
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During this time, the city has entered into agreements with several other communities including St. Augusta, St. Joseph, Sartell, Sauk Rapids, Waite Park, and Foley to treat their wastewater, and have entered into agreements with beer and food processors to take their waste, increasing the amount of biofuel the plant is able to generate.

Governor Walz says that the system lowers the cost for all the communities served by the plant.

I think what's really important, and it was highlighted, (is) Greater St. Cloud being able to hook up some of our surrounding cities. If you had to do property taxes to build a facility in a smaller community, it's just not doable.

Walz also toured the system that uses solid waste to produce a nutrient-rich fertilizer. Officials explained the fertilizer is in demand from farmers and commercial growers, due to its ease of use and rich nutrient profile.

Public Works Director Tracy Hodel, Gov. Tim Walz, and Rep. Dan Wolgamott tour the St. Cloud Wastewater Treatment facility. Photo: Jeff McMahon, WJON
Public Works Director Tracy Hodel, Gov. Tim Walz, and Rep. Dan Wolgamott tour the St. Cloud Wastewater Treatment facility. Photo: Jeff McMahon, WJON
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Officials also stressed that, when you add in the city’s hydroelectric plant on the Mississippi River, the city creates three times as much energy as it uses, saving the city millions in energy costs every year.

Walz says the system is a blueprint for communities statewide.

We're going to save money out here, we're going to clean the environment, and we're going to make services better for the people St Cloud. This is what creates economic opportunity. And so I applaud the vision of this community. There are there aren't many across the country doing what's happening in this facility.

A wasted food-to-energy landfill diversion project. Renewable natural gas production and a green hydrogen project are all included in future plans at the St. Cloud NEW (Nutrient, Energy, and Water) Recovery Facility.

Gov. Walz visit with Rep. Dan Wolgamott and St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis while touring the St. Cloud Wastewater Treatment Plant. Photo - Jeff McMahon, WJON
Gov. Walz visit with Rep. Dan Wolgamott and St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis while touring the St. Cloud Wastewater Treatment Plant. Photo - Jeff McMahon, WJON
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