Charlestown, URI partner on septic tank management; goal is to reduce the impact on the watershed | Daily news alerts


KINGSTON – The City of Charlestown is collaborating with wastewater management experts at the University of Rhode Island on a pilot project to develop a comprehensive approach to reduce the amount of nitrogen from septic systems entering in groundwater and is found in drinking water and nearby salt ponds.

Collaborators received a five-year grant of $ 750,000 from the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Southeastern New England program to install, test and monitor new septic technology that reduces l nitrogen, install stormwater mitigation measures, develop an education and community engagement plan and prepare a synthesis document that will allow other communities to follow suit.

“The City of Charlestown has been very proactive in wastewater and watershed management, and this grant builds on successful approaches it has tried in the past,” said Alissa Cox, Director of the Training Program on the New England site sewage at URI. , who will lead the project with Matthew Dowling, Director of the Charlestown Onsite Wastewater Management Program.

According to Cox, septic systems in coastal communities like Charlestown can negatively impact groundwater, drinking water and public health. When nitrogen enters groundwater, it can alter the quality of drinking water and create algal blooms in salt ponds that can lead to low oxygen levels and the death of fish and shellfish.

“Many communities like Charlestown on the New England coast depend on local groundwater for drinking water and on-site septic systems for wastewater management,” said Dowling. “Unmanaged systems and mixed septic plumes can impact not only the quality of drinking water, but also the coastal ecosystems on which these communities depend as a major component of their economies. Investing in the management of septic tanks is therefore becoming a priority.

The new septic technology will be tested in up to 10 homes near the west end of Green Hill Pond and the east end of Ninigret Pond. This is called a nitrogen reducing layered soil treatment system, in which the leach field of a septic system consists of a layer of sand on top of a layer of sand mixed with sawdust. drink. As the septic effluent moves through the layers, the sand layer converts ammonium to nitric nitrogen and the sand and sawdust layer converts nitric nitrogen to a gas which dissipates in the atmosphere instead of settling. clear a path through the groundwater.

Cox said this technology is much cheaper than proprietary technologies that many companies are looking to install in similar locations, some of which can cost as much as $ 40,000.

“We’ve seen this layered soil treatment system work in other parts of North America, particularly Canada, Florida, and Cape Cod, and we’re trying to bring it to Rhode Island and other parts of North America. other parts of New England, ”Cox said. “Instead of using one of the expensive proprietary systems, you can use this non-proprietary drainage field to reduce nitrogen. This is another option that homeowners can consider.

URI’s role in the project is to help design, install and monitor new layered soil treatment systems and benchmark them against the performance of more expensive proprietary systems installed elsewhere. Other partners are Save The Bay, which will implement stormwater mitigation measures to reduce the impact of stormwater runoff on salt ponds, and the Salt Ponds Coalition, which will conduct water quality monitoring. water to assess the impacts of installations.

Cox and his colleagues will work with all partners on the education and public engagement component of the project.

“My vision is to create Watershed Celebration Days where we organize a series of tours of the new layered systems and stormwater management measures so people can see them and learn more about them,” he said. Cox said. “It could be like a block party and a tour combined to engage the community. We will be reaching out to cultural and historical representatives of the watershed to provide them with a cultural perspective and community engagement, as well as other community groups, to make it a celebration and to educate people about these new tools for protecting the watershed.

By the end of the five-year project, Cox expects to have prepared a plan in collaboration with the City of Charlestown on how other coastal communities with large numbers of septic systems can improve their watershed management. while meeting regulatory requirements.

“Our final report will be a case study of our successes and the lessons we have learned so that it can be used to train other communities,” Cox said.


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