Alternative Sewers Number 4
Technologies Provide Cost-effective Option for Many Small Systems
by Kathy Jesperson Harold Ball, president of Orenco “Alternative systems can be built department at Geneva College in
NSFC Contributing Writer Systems Incorporated based in in many areas that are limited by Pennsylvania, and Donald D.
Sutherlin, Oregon. “There is a their terrain,” said Steve Fishel, Gray, associate professor of civil
If you’re not connected to a con- serious lack of education about environmental engineer with the and environmental engineering at
ventional gravity sewer, then you alternative systems. And that’s Tennessee Division of Water Pol- West Virginia University.
must have a septic tank with a something that needs to be brought lution Control.
drainfield. Right? out in the open.” While the authors submit that a
“The slope of a conventional grav- 90-percent savings is not typical,
Well, maybe not. Within the past Ball said that although the fight to ity sewer is a major consideration they do advise that savings can be
30 years, alternative sewer tech- include alternative systems as a as well as deep trenches, large significant—especially when
nologies have taken hold within viable choice is now gaining mo- expensive pipe, large pump sta- considering that the collection
the U.S. mentum, he’s found that most tions, infiltration and inflow (I/I), system cost is typically 80 to 90
times people are willing to listen. and huge future rehabilitation percent of the overall treatment
Alternative sewer technologies State environmental control divi- costs,” Fishel said. “Since our goal and collection expense. The paper
include grinder pump pressure sions are becoming more familiar is to eliminate future hidden costs illustrates that alternative sewer
sewers, septic tank effluent pump with what these kinds of systems of I/I, cities must do something technologies are practical and
pressure sewers, small-diameter can offer communities—particu- different. Gravity sewer systems cost-effective choices in many
gravity sewers, and vacuum sewers. larly those that could not otherwise are complicated systems that can different situations.
install central sewers. And regula- be very expensive.”
Although they’ve been around tors are more willing to grant per- Grinder Pumps
since the late 1960s, alternative mits now than in years past, he Because of these considerations, In grinder pump (GP) pressure
sewer technologies often are added. alternative sewer technologies can sewers, wastewater from conven-
treated like new inventions in save many small communities tional plumbing fixtures flows by
some states. An alternative tech- Conventional gravity sewers work thousands of dollars. According to gravity to a holding tank in the
nology simply means a technology just fine in many situations, par- the conference paper Conventional basement or under the lawn. The
that exists outside of what we ticularly in areas with large popu- and Alternative Sanitary Sewers: holding tank contains a level-
consider conventional or tradi- lations, low water tables, or deep Concepts, Experience, and Costs, controlled sewage pump whose
tional—large diameter gravity soils. But in areas where popula- “capital cost savings as high as 90 intake is fitted with a grinding
sewers with a central collection tions are small, the terrain is hilly percent have been reported with mechanism similar to that of a
system. or rocky, the groundwater table is pressure sewers compared to con- household garbage disposal. When
high, or shallow soils exist, an ventional gravity sewers.” The a preset volume—typically 10 to
“We sometimes have a hard time alternative system is a welcome paper was written by James S.
trying to break old habits,” said option. Gidley, head of the civil engineering Continued on page 2
Small Community’s Call to NSFC Results in Big Savings
by Chris Berry
NSFC Contributing Writer
Palouse, Washington, a town with
a population under 1,000 and a
sewer plant constructed during the
1950s, faced a problem. The
Washington Department of Ecol-
ogy had discovered the town’s
sewage treatment plant was out of
compliance. The town was ordered
to correct the problem.
The Palouse City Council was
stunned. The prospect of financing
a new system was staggering. To
give the town more time, the plant A small Washington community saved more than $3 million on its new wastewater treatment plant after consult-
operator improvised and inserted a ing with the National Small Flows Clearinghouse’s technical assistance staff. Photo courtesy of Ed Gnaedinger
section of corrugated fiberglass
roofing into the chamber of the location within the flood plane replace a 400-foot section of 12- woth biological oxygen demand
holding tank to slow output and in- prompted officials to build a new inch collection main. (BOD) levels of 30 mg/l (milli-
crease contact time for disinfection. plant. grams per liter), total suspended
The engineering firm and city solids (TSS) levels of 30 mg/l, and L SMALL
At the time, Palouse was discharg- NA
An Expensive Solution
council agreed on a lagoon and a total kjeldakl nitrogen (TKN) of
ing effluent containing chlorine The city council decided to hire an irrigation system. In order to con- 10 mg/l.
and ammonia into a local river. engineering firm that had worked struct the system, Palouse would
This make-shift baffle drastically EA
with Palouse in the past. The firm need to spend $6 million, dedicate The Department of Ecology alerted R IN GHOU
slowed plant output, and the town came up with two viable options 160 acres of land for effluent irri- the town that it would be able to
considered spending between for the town. Both of them would gation, and absorb the high cost of locate money to fund the project. Helping
$10,000 and $15,000 to install a require the town to purchase prop- operating and maintaining the However, after $240,000 had America’s small
more efficient, permanent baffle. erty, pump the effluent to a higher system. The lagoon system, they communities meet
But the age of the plant and its elevation for treatment, and were told, would produce effluent Continued on page 9 their wastewater
SMALL FLOWS-Fall 1997; Vol.11, No. 4 1
Continued from page 1 But before the district could make a total cost of $478,223—which of the grease, 70 to 90 percent of
plans to replace the trunkline, a included 10,000 feet of trunkline, a the suspended solids, and 50 to 80
30 gallons—accumulates, the major storm hit the area, breaking large diameter force main, and the percent of the biological oxygen
grinder pump is activated. the line. The district decided it grinder pump system. The GP demand (BOD).
would be a good idea to redesign system alone cost $98,453.
The grinder pump then macerates the trunkline and move it to higher The partially treated effluent then
the solids and pumps the resulting ground, relocating it along a high- Approximately $36,000 of the total flows to a pump vault within the
slurry into a collection network way. This move left 25-30 sea- cost was for a new electrical sys- tank (or separate pump tank in
(see graphic below). Grinding sonal homes, which had been con- tem, according to the NSFC case older systems) where a submers-
solids reduces the risk of block- nected to the trunkline, without study. This allows for pump power ible pump—typically one-half
ages to the small-diameter pipes. central collection. consumption to be metered sepa- horsepower—conveys the effluent
Since the flow is under pressure, rately from the homeowners’ other to the collection system. The
there are no restrictions on the These homes were at a lower el- power needs and paid for by the pumps are usually controlled by
length or rise of the collection net- evation than the new line. “Most of sanitary district. Because of this level sensors that cause the pumps
work. And because grinder pumps the customers said they were not breakdown in costs, the per house to discharge approximately 50
normally run for only a few minutes going back on septic tanks and cost came to about $3,000. gallons per dose.
per day, operation costs are rela- they wanted us to find a way to
tively low. help them,” said Dale Glidden, “The system is operating very A typical septic tank provides 100
sanitary district superintendent. well,” said Glidden. “Customers to 200 gallons of reserve storage
Augusta Installs GP System “After some research, we decided don’t even know that the pumps capacity for use during system
In 1981, the Augusta Sanitary that the most cost-effective collec- are there because we maintain failures.
District in Augusta, Maine, needed tion system was a grinder pump them—the electricity, general
to replace a conventional gravity system. There are such a small maintenance, etc. One of the Both GP and STEP units generally
sewer. The district serves Augusta number of homes, and they’re pumps has a rubber boot that we use above-ground electrical panels
and several surrounding communi- primarily for seasonal use, that need to replace every couple of years. that contain the pump control and
ties. The regional trunkline ran installing a conventional gravity visual alarm circuits. These panels
along the shore of Lake Cobbossee- system would have been too ex- “We recently had to replace some may be free-standing units above
contee in Manchester and was pensive.” of the pump motors, but the system the pump vault or may be mounted
subject to flooding and wave dam- has been in operation for more on the exterior wall of the house.
age. Besides deterioration of the According to the National Small than 10 years, so I think that’s just
trunkline, the district also had to Flows Clearinghouse’s (NSFC) normal wear and tear that you have Glide Takes a STEP
consider that the lake serves as a case study of this system, to expect,” he said. In Glide, Oregon, development
secondary drinking water source Augusta’s Sanitary District was sparse. A conventional gravity
for Augusta. constucted the system in 1981 for “One problem we had surprised system would have required long
me. One household must have lengths of sewer lines between
Grinder Pump really liked eggs. And they kept
putting egg shells down the drain.
homes. And installing septic sys-
tems was not an option because the
Well, the shells acted like frag- area’s soils were not suitable for
ments of glass in the grinder pump subsurface disposal. Many existing
and cut the rubber boots to pieces,” homes had sewage ponding on the
he said. Sanitary district personnel ground’s surface as well as flow-
distributed letters to the home- ing into roadside ditches.
owners, warning them of the egg-
shell problem. After conducting several indepen-
dent studies, the community
“Other than that, we’ve really had concluded that installing a conven-
very few problems with it. I think tional gravity system would not be
that it’s been money well spent. a cost-effective option. So in 1975,
It’s been an exceptional system” the Douglas County Department of
Glidden said. Public Works proposed a pressure
Wet well sewer system to serve the commu-
He is cautious to stress that a nity. The system includes a pump
Sewage to power outage would affect the at each home or group of homes,
entire system. However, he asserted small diameter piping, and a cen-
that it’s easy to maintain and rela- tral treatment plant. In Glide’s
tivity inexpensive to install and case, the pumps are septic tank
operate. effluent pumps.
“Customers pay a flat fee that “This system was the first of its
comes to about $220–$230 a year kind 20 years ago, and it’s been
regardless of flow for the sewer quite a success,” said Stan
Sewage service,” Glidden said. That cost Sherman, operator of the Glide
from house equals roughly $19 a month. Wastewater Treatment Facility. “It
Grinder pump serves 600 hookups, and each
STEP Systems residence has a septic tank and
In septic tank effluent pump control panel. There is a sub-
(STEP) preasure sewers systems, merged pump in a vault within the
raw household sewage enters a septic tank that sends effluent by
watertight septic tank with a ca- pressure to the main line.
pacity of at least 1,000 gallons.
This treatment removes 90 percent Continued on next page
Source: F.E. Myers Co.
2 SMALL FLOWS-Fall 1997; Vol.11, No. 4
Continued from previous page of SDGS are variable grade efflu- created by failing onsite sewage few times when I had to put on my
ent sewers (VGES) and minimum disposal systems. boots and stand in someone’s tub
“The system is pretty well self grade effluent sewers (MGES). with a plunger. This isn’t the
maintained,” he continued. “We Some of the homes discharged raw district’s responsibility, it’s just
don’t have too many problems. Both VGES and MGES use grav- sewage directly into ditches, that I have the knowledge, time,
Homeowners notify us if a pump ity as a main force, rather than streams, back yards, or open pits. and tools. Besides, it’s just good
burns out. But there’s no set pat- pumps, to carry treated effluent During periods of heavy rainfall, public relations as well as neighbor
tern for what’s going to happen. from the septic tanks that provide septic tank effluent surfaced and helping neighbor.
Overall, it’s fairly minimal mainte- primary treatment to the household polluted storm runoff. After in-
nance. Two operators handle the wastewater. Since the septic tank specting the onsite systems, regu- “I guess the point I’m trying to make
lators determined that a high is that when part of the system is in
STEP/SDGS Systems groundwater table combined with
poor soil conditions made onsite
every customer’s backyard, they
become more involved. And the
treatment unsuitable for the area. operator becomes more involved
with the customers,” she asserted.
After considering a number of
conventional and alternative sys- The lines in Dexter’s system are
tems, Dexter town officials de- about three to four feet deep.
cided that a MGES system with a According to Jerry Minor, project
recirculating sand filter treatment design engineer, that’s one reason
plant should be built. the town saved a considerable
amount of money on excavation.
The total construction cost of the “We also did not need to install
collection and treatment system, manholes such as a typical gravity
Septic tank effluent pump (STEP) pressure sewers and small-diameter including septic tanks, was a little system would require, and that
gravity sewers (SDGS) each involve partial treatment in a septic tank more than $1 million, or roughly saved the town even more money,”
before effluent is released to a collection system. STEP systems rely on a $5,200 per home. The MGES he concluded.
pump, SDGS systems rely on gravity, while hybrid systems use a alone cost approximately
combination of both. $600,000. An estimate of approxi- Desoto said town residents pay
mately $1.9 million had been bid $17 a month for the sewer service.
for the construction of a conven-
facility, service calls, and just removes most of the grease and tional gravity system with treat- Vacuum Sewers
about everything about the system. suspended solids from the sewage, ment by a stabilization pond. The first modern residential
minimum velocity is not as impor- vacuum sewer (VS) was con-
“We’ve installed a couple of main tant as it is for GP systems. “Since the system was built, we structed in Sweden in 1959, but
lines since the system was first tore out the fabric matting within this technology did not reach the
installed. And that’s because of The pipes used with these systems the rock filter media. The original U.S. until 1970. As the name sug-
area development,” Sherman said. are somewhat larger than those plastic tanks collapsed in the winter gests, these systems rely on a
“Customers pay an installation fee used for pressure sewers—usually rains and were replaced with con- vacuum created at a central pump-
of $3,350. This fee includes every three to four inches in diameter. crete tanks. Smoke testing revealed ing station to operate.
apparatus needed. And they pay a high infiltration was occurring
$26 monthly fee for the sewer As with other alternative systems, through the septic tank lids. Extend- This type of sewer works best in
service. these kinds of sewers use plastic ing these to six inches above the flat areas because of its limited
pipes. They are much less expen- ground has greatly reduced I/I,” ability to transport wastewater
“When they compared the cost sive and easier to install than con- said Lil Desoto, system operator for uphill. Lines should not be built
difference of STEP versus a con- ventional sewer pipe. Plastic pipes the Dexter Sanitary District. with lifts of more than 26 feet over
ventional system there was a major may also be laid at variable grades, the entire system.
difference. So it pretty much sold which can be a money saving Desoto said the system has all
itself,” he added. “We get calls feature in areas where rock closed piping, but there are still VS systems have no electrical
from out of state all the time from outcroppings or other geological some concerns with I/I. “Our aver- components at individual connec-
people who are looking into these features make deep excavation age flow of 40,000 gallons per day tions and do not require any spe-
kinds of systems. They will prob- expensive. [gpd] in the summer rose to cial plumbing fixtures on the
ably become common as the years 100,000 [gpd] with six inches of homeowner’s part. However, elec-
go by.” Frequently, STEP and SDGS rain over three days during the trical power is needed at the cen-
systems will be used together. winter. We’re going to be doing tral pumping station.
SDG Sewers While most houses may be served some smoke testing to try to deter-
Small-diameter gravity sewers by gravity, a few houses will be mine where some of the leaks are Wastewater flows from the house
(SDGS) travel under several differ- situated below the elevation of the coming from,” she said. via gravity to a holding tank. When
ent aliases, such as variable grade main. Rather than incurring extra the wastewater level reaches three
sewers, septic tank effluent drain- excavation costs by dropping the But Desoto said the system has to 10 gallons, a sensor prompts the
age, small bore sewers, and Aus- main or pressurizing the whole held up well through all the area pneumatic valve to open, and
tralian sewers. Not only is it con- neighborhood, the isolated flooding. After eight inches of rain wastewater is drawn by vacuum
fusing to have so many names for residences may be served by fell in two days, they had to evacu- into the lines. From there, it is
a system that is basically the same, STEP units. ate at one house because the lines transported to a centralized pump-
but the current terminology fails to were backing up into his shower. ing station for future treatment.
fully describe the important dis- Dexter Saves with MGES “And that’s pretty good—one out
tinctions between the different Dexter, Oregon—about 18 miles of about 200 homes,” she said. VS systems are equipped with
types of systems as well as their southeast of Eugene—installed a alarms and an emergency backup
relationship to each other. MGES that went into operation in “Overall, it’s an easy system to generator at the pumping station in
1983. In 1977, Lane County had operate,” she continued. “But you case a power outage or other problem
SDGS includes the STEP systems placed a moratorium on new con- need to be there for folks if some-
mentioned above. Two other types struction because of health hazards thing goes wrong. There’ve been a Continued on page 4
SMALL FLOWS-Fall 1997; Vol.11, No. 4 3
Continued from page 3 homes, and the effluent goes into a infiltrate the system. Cracked pipes maintenance costs and require-
holding tank and we use vacuum and leaky manhole covers can be a ments. “We need to do more work
occurs. These systems use small- from there. concern with conventional sewers, to compare all the costs and tasks
diameter plastic pipes as do the causing an excessive amount of of alternative systems,” said Fishel.
other systems mentioned. The lines “But this is a maintenance system, water to flow into the system and
are usually three to four inches in so if there’s a problem you have to untreated wastewater to flow out. But because alternative systems
diameter from the service connec- take care of it right away. Other- have components that conventional
tion and from four to 10 inches in wise, everyone on the system is Because alternative sewers use collection systems do not, mainte-
the main. The vacuum also keeps out of service,” he noted. plastic pipes rather than conven- nance is important to the life of the
the lines clean, eliminating the tional clay or concrete pipes, they system. Further, power outages
need for manholes and clean-out “The average monthly bill for a are more likely to remain water- also may affect the operation of
points. Air, admitted with the homeowner is $27,” he said. tight. And watertight design and alternative sewers because these
sewage, helps reduce odors. construction is essential for septic systems often require electricity to
Considering the Facts tanks, pump tanks, risers, and other operate. Mechanical breakdowns
These systems usually require an Choosing one of these alternative system components. Too much also may disrupt service. And
operator because pumps and pump- technologies involves the consider- water in the system can reduce its systems may be poorly designed or
ing stations need to be checked on a ation of many factors, such as the life, adding to the community’s costs. installed if engineers or contractors
regular basis. Division valves that lay of the land and the population have little experience with the
connect different parts of the sewer of the area to be served. Hookups Because some alternative sewers technology.
lines need to be checked at least to conventional sewers may not don’t rely on gravity to operate,
twice a year, and the pneumatic always be available. they don’t need to be built on a “An engineer should never be
vacuum valves at each connection continuous downward slope as do hired to install an alternative sys-
should be checked annually. Sometimes the area is too far from conventional sewers, saving tem unless the engineer has con-
the community’s more populated money on excavation. Instead, they siderable actual experience or
Cedar Rocks Gets a VS urban areas, and installing conven- are buried at shallow depths, just agrees to hire an experienced con-
In 1984, vacuum sewers offered tional sewers would be too expen- below the frost line, and can follow sultant to assist,” said Ball.
the folks in Cedar Rocks, West sive. Or site conditions such as the natural contours of the land.
Virginia, the opportunity to have a rugged, rocky, or hilly terrain may “Because these systems are rela-
low-cost centralized collection make conventional sewering too Such features make alternative tively new, there’s not much docu-
system. The system involves col- difficult to build and, conse- sewer technologies appropriate for mentation on costs,” said Fishel.
lecting sewage from Cedar Rocks quently, too expensive. areas with hilly terrain or ex- “We encourage our communities
with final disposal in Wheeling, tremely flat terrain, shallow bed- to shop hard for good technology
West Virginia. “You need to look at the econom- rock, and high water tables and and to look for future hidden costs.
“You need to look ics as well as the reliability of the areas where the costs and environ- Always be sure you’re dealing
at the economics Installing the vacuum system collection system,” said Fishel. mental impact of excavating for with an engineer who knows the
saved the town a considerable “That’s what counts.” He also traditional gravity sewers would be system. Do your homework. You
as well as the
amount in construction costs. To advises looking at future costs and excessive. Trenchless installations won’t be sorry you did later.”
reliablility of install a conventional gravity sys- the system’s hidden costs—such as and other new techniques can
the collection tem, the town would have had to system maintenance. further reduce the costs and impact To obtain copies of the case stud-
shell out $2.1 million—which was of construction. ies mentioned in this article, call
system. That’s the low bid and not the actual “From our view, we try to require the NSFC at (800) 624-8301. For
what counts.” construction cost. The vacuum the city’s engineer to express clear Another advantage of plastic pip- the report on Cedar Rocks, West
system was designed, bid, and economics and give a clear vision ing is that it can be routed around Virginia, request Item
Steve Fishel, constructed at a final actual con- of alternative systems,” he stated. ponds, lakes, trees, houses, and #WWBLCS02. The cost is $1.15.
struction cost of $1.2 million, other obstacles. This can minimize For the report on Dexter, Oregon,
Tennessee Division saving the town at least $925,000. Advantages disruption to the environment and request Item #WWBLCS13. The
of Water Pollution Alternative sewers offer communi- further save money for home- cost is $1.45. For the report on
Control “We started out with one system in ties many advantages. One advan- owners and communities. Augusta Maine, request Item
1983, and now we have five,” said tage is that they use small-diameter #WWBLCS12. The cost is $1.15.
Ed Clifford, Ohio County Public plastic pipes. These pipes are much Finally, some alternative sewer
Service District general manager. smaller than those used in conven- system designs allow developers To obtain a copy of the Gidley and
“We saved a ton of money on tional gravity sewers and are less and community planners the ad- Gray paper, Conventional and
construction costs because the expensive and easier to install— vantage of more flexibility because Alternative Sanitary Sewers: Con-
lines don’t have to be so deep. This thereby saving money for the com- the most expensive system compo- cepts, Experience, and Costs, call
area has lots of hillside and rocky munity as well as individual nents for each connection do not the NSFC at the number above and
terrain. Those are the main reasons homeowners. need to be purchased or installed ask for Item #L2087 from the
we chose it. until after houses are built. NSFC’s Bibliographic Database.
The use of small-diameter plastic And for more information about
“If there had been any problem pipes is possible because the While individual homeowners may alternative sewer technologies,
with it, I don’t think we would wastewater that flows into them is look on this as a disadvantage call the NSFC technical assistance
have expanded it,” he continued. easier to pump through small pipe. because the cost of the onsite com- staff .
“About the only problems we’ve The amount of solids, grease, and ponents is transferred directly to
had with it were people routing oils is considerably less, and large, them, they may well pay more for
their downspouts into the line and solid materials have either been conventional systems through See page 16 for more on
allowing the water to flow into the separated out or ground into higher taxes and fees. So, in the alternative sewers in the
system and overloading it. smaller pieces. long run they may be saving a Hotline Q&A section
substantial amount of money.
“People don’t know the difference Another advantage of alternative See page 7 of the NSFC
from a conventional system,” he sewers is that the construction of Other Considerations Products Insert in the center
added. “There’s nothing on the lot the lines and other design factors Before choosing an alternative of this newsletter for a list of
that indicates any difference. The makes it less likely for wastewater technology, there are some things related products.
system uses gravity flow from the to seep out or for other water to to consider, such as operation and
4 SMALL FLOWS-Fall 1997; Vol.11, No. 4
Improving the Public’s Perception of Biosolids
by Jeremy Canody
NSFC Staff Writer
Biosolids are the treated end prod-
ucts generated during the treatment
of sewage. In other words, they are
the processed organic solids that
have been separated from the liq-
uid portion of municipal wastewa-
ter during treatment.
Following treatment these solids
may be incinerated in a furnace,
disposed of in a landfill or a desig-
nated surface disposal site (e.g.,
monofill), or land applied for ben-
Over the past 25 years, there has
been an increasing interest in the
land application of biosolids to
agricultural and landscaping areas,
in addition to using heat drying/
pelletizing, composting, and alka-
line stabilization processes to pro-
duce biosolids by-products. A truck applies biosolids to a farm in western Pennsylvania. There are approximately 1,500 permitted
sites in Pennsylvania where biosolids can be applied for agricultural, land reclamation, and other pur-
Biosolids must meet quality and poses. Photo by Scott Beveridge/(Washington, PA) Observer-Reporter
reuse standards as defined by fed-
eral and state regulations. Bio- including nitrogen, phosphorous, Addressing Fears and nutrients for plants to grow.
solids treated in accordance with and zinc, are essential for sustain- Misconceptions Biosolids sold as fertilizer have a
these regulations have been proven ing plant and animal life. When people become aware that mild, organic smell similar to soil.
safe and should leave no cause for the food they are eating, the grass
concern. Microorganisms, trace amounts of on their golf courses, and the ball Walker said people tend to become
metals, and synthetic and naturally fields that their children play on concerned when they smell a foul
Yet, there remains skepticism in occurring chemicals are also were grown with the help of what odor and realize it’s coming from
the public’s eye as to just how safe present in biosolids. These con- used to be municipal sewage, they land-applied biosolids. “They have
the various uses of biosolids really stituents have the potential to be tend to become unsettled with the the misconception that raw human
are, particularly the land applica- harmful to health and the environ- thought. waste, laden with toxic chemicals,
tion of biosolids. ment if they are not treated and/or is being applied—that’s simply not
removed. However, rigorous pre- According to John Walker, leader the case.”
The fact is, biosolids are one of the treatment processes at wastewater of EPA’s Biosolids Management
most studied materials that have treatment plants and industrial Implementation Team, the public The fact is, Walker added, biosolids
ever been regulated by the U.S. facilities significantly reduce these and some environmentalist groups that meet federal treatment, applica-
Environmental Protection Agency harmful constituents to levels are concerned with the use of land tion, and monitoring requirements
(EPA), whose findings conclude where they no longer present a applied biosolids for various rea- are safe for use.
that biosolids applications, when threat to the environment or human sons. These include problems with
conducted properly, improve soil health. odors, fears about the potential for Contamination—Those concerned
conditions and increase plant pro- groundwater contamination, and with ground and surface water con-
ductivity. It also eliminates the The presence of beneficial nutri- fear that the federal and state regu- tamination feel that biosolids con-
disposal of a useful by-product. ents in biosolids make land appli- lations on biosolids reuse are not tribute excess nutrients, trace met-
cation an attractive option to farm- being properly followed. als, microorganisms, and pathogens.
Why use biosolids? ers and growers, therefore creating On the contrary, biosolids must
Many treatment facilities, both an increased demand for a benefi- Walker addressed each concern. meet federal, state, and local regula-
large and small, choose to land cial byproduct that would other- tions, eliminate harmful constituents
apply their biosolids because it wise be landfilled or incinerated. Odor—Different kinds of recycled and utilize those that can be benefi-
tends to be the most environmen- biosolids each have their own cial to the soil and environment.
tally friendly, economical, and Approximately 65 percent of all distinct smells, depending on the
resourceful disposal option. land applied biosolids are being type of treatment they have under-When applied to crops, application
used on agricultural land to grow gone. Some have only a mild, rates are matched to calculate crop
According to EPA, approximately various crops intended for both musty smell, while other biosolids,
demand (called the agronomic rate)
54 percent of all biosolids are land human and non-human consump- when freshly applied, have a stron-
for beneficial nutrients, such as
applied (for purposes that include tion. Although recycling biosolids ger odor that tends to be offensive
nitrogen and background levels of
land reclamation, fertilization of back to the land is a common prac- to some people. constituents already existing in the
forest land and agricultural crops), tice, there are not nearly enough soil. This ensures that land applica-
or composted to make organic biosolids to fertilize all crops These odors, whether strong or tion sites do not become overabun-
fertilizers for landscaping. grown in the U.S. According to not, are primarily caused by com- dant with plant nutrients and trace
EPA, less than 1 percent of the pounds containing sulfur and am- metals that may adversely affect
Biosolids consist of a variety of total food supply has been fertil- monia. Forms of these compounds, ground and nearby surface waters.
materials including organics, soil, ized with biosolids. such as nitrate, ammonium, and
and sand. Many of the constituents, sulfate, also serve as beneficial Continued page 6
SMALL FLOWS-Fall 1997; Vol.11, No. 4 5
Improving the Public’s Perception of Biosolids
Continued from page 5 In response, Al Gray, Water Envi- that high quality biosolids can be However, Part 503 applies to any
ronment Federation (WEF) deputy used sustainably when applied to person who is a preparer of
executive director, pointed out that agricultural land to nourish and biosolids (a person who changes
Regulations—In order to avoid biosolids and untreated sewage improve the fertility, structure, and the quality of biosolids) for uses
ground and surface water contami- sludge are different by-products. properties of the soil. However, intended for application, disposal,
nation, biosolids must be applied at Gray explained in a subsequent many people do not know much or incineration. Therefore,
the agronomic rate and must meet interview with CNN that biosolids about the rules that regulate preparers must apply for permits.
a number of pathogen reduction are processed, regulated, moni- biosolids and are convinced that
requirements, constituent limits, tored, and have been subjected to they are not being followed prop- These people are usually the own-
and loading rates that contain severe risk assessments by EPA, erly. ers and operators of treatment
monitoring and record keeping WEF, and many scientific organi- facilities that treat domestic sew-
provisions to assure requirements zations that continue to monitor Regulating Biosolids age. However, biosolids preparers
are met. and test biosolids. EPA concluded more than 20 years can include industrial facilities that
of study and research when, in separately treat wastewater or any
For example, under the federal Gray also referred to a recent re- February 1993, it issued its most other individual, corporation, or
biosolids rule (explained later in port by the National Research comprehensive set of regulations government entity that changes the
this article), treatment plants are Council’s Water Science and aimed at ensuring the quality of quality of biosolids.
required to treat their biosolids Technology Board that reaffirms recycled biosolids and their safe
using methods such as high tem- EPA’s and WEF’s application. In addition, federal standards re-
perature, chemical stabilization, original positions that quire that biosolids be sampled and
and moisture removal to substan- treated municipal By promulgating tested. The frequency of monitor-
tially reduce bacteria, viruses, and wastewater biosolids “We know the Part 503 Rule, ing is determined by the amount of
protozoa. When applied to land, can be safely used on that our federal as required by the biosolids being land applied.
these pathogens are further re- food crops when Clean Water Act
duced by competing microorgan- done in accordance standards are Amendments of For example, biosolids generators
isms. with federal regula- doing a good job 1987, EPA estab- that produce a dry weight of
tions. lished quality crite- biosolids equal to or greater than
Additional safeguards to health
ria for biosolids by 1,500 metric tons but less than
and the environment are afforded This report, The Use biosolids; however, setting strict limits 15,000 metric tons should be
by site and crop harvesting restric- of Reclaimed Water nothing is perfect.” for trace metals, monitored once per 60 days, or six
tions. Those biosolids that are and Sludge in Food enforcing substan- times a year, according to the Part
composted and heat-dried are Crop Production, John Walker, tial reduction of 503 Rule.
virtually pathogen-free. was produced by an pathogens, moni-
independent group of U.S. EPA toring contami- Informing the Public
In most cases, people do not real- experts following nants, restricting EPA, WEF, and regional, state,
ize that these biosolids are closely three years of study site access, mini- and local biosolids organizations
regulated, according to Walker, that examined the mizing odor, pre- are providing extensive informa-
and people sometimes assume that adequacy of existing regulations venting runoff, and ensuring that tion in an effort to inform the pub-
untreated, raw sewage is being for pathogens, trace metals, or- biosolids are applied at agronomic lic of the benefits of properly
applied to the land. ganic compounds; effects on soil, rates. (See related article discuss- treated biosolids.
crop, and groundwater; and legal, ing the Part 503 Rule in the Small
Media Alarm economic, and institutional issues. Flows Summer 1996 issue.) EPA is working with biosolids
Recent negative reports about (This report is available through stakeholders to develop “Codes of
biosolids, such as a three-part the National Academy Press for In creating the rule, EPA worked Good Practice.” Walker said that
series by CNN in June 1997, titled $29, plus shipping, by calling 800- with a variety of biosolids “stake- this group consists of a variety of
“Hazardous Harvest,” portray 624-6242.) holders,” including farmers and professionals whose common goal
biosolids and untreated sewage soil scientists, to examine every is to promote sound practices that
sludge as one and the same. EPA concludes that decades of aspect of wastewater solids in the not only meet state and federal
research on biosolids has shown environment, including their im- regulations but also minimize
pact on groundwater, air and soil nuisances and are neighbor
Biosolids Reuse quality, and surface runoff. friendly, in addition to exploring
new measures to ensure that
Current beneficial use Breakout of beneficial Not only are biosolids regulated biosolids produced are as safe as
and disposal practices land application uses stringently at the federal level, but possible. The group then shares its
they are also monitored at the state findings with EPA and distributes
and local levels. Every state has its helpful information to the public.
own biosolids regulations criteria
that meet and often exceed the “We know that our federal stan-
requirements established by Part dards are doing a good job of man-
503. aging biosolids; however, nothing
is perfect. So our stakeholders
To further ensure that land-applied meet to discuss what areas need
biosolids generated from a waste- more attention and what should be
water treatment plant meet Part done about it,” Walker said.
Surface disposal 10%
503 standards, EPA and state regu-
Other land application 4%
lations require wastewater treat- He explained that one issue the
Incineration 15% Land reclamation 4%
ment facilities to apply for a group has focused a lot of attention
Beneficial land application 36% Forest and parks 11%
biosolids application permit, ex- on is exploring the public’s general
Landfilled 38% Composting and commercial 16% plaining quality, quantity, and concern with biosolids odor. Even
Agricultural land 66% ultimate use or disposal of the
Source: U.S. EPA biosolids they produce. Continued on next page
6 SMALL FLOWS-Fall 1997; Vol.11, No. 4
For more information concerning biosolids, call the U.S. EPA
Continued from previous page tion materials, conference listings, biosolids representative nearest you. Check below for the
regulations listings, networking biosolids contact in your region.
though EPA has no current evi- opportunities, and links to other
dence that environmental or human related homepages. Region 1
health problems result from the (CT, ME, MA, NH, RI, VT) Thelma Hamilton (617) 565-3969
odor of biosolids, to lessen the At the regional level, stakeholder
cause for concern a group of pro- associations such as the Northwest Region 2
fessionals will be assembled to Biosolids Management Associa- (NJ, NY, PR, VI) Alia Roufaeal (212) 264-8663
assess odors. tion (NBMA) promote the benefi-
cial uses of biosolids management Region 3
Walker added that other key issues among member agencies (sewer- (DE, DC, MD, PA, VA, WV) Ann Carkhuff (215) 597-9406
discussed include the transporta- age plants in the northwest U.S.);
tion and storage of biosolids, ways industry; local, state, and federal Region 4
to further regulate industrial waste, regulators; and the public. (AL, FL, GA, KY, MS, NC, SC, TN) Vince Miller (404) 347-2391
and exploring how the production
of biosolids compares to that of The NBMA promotes public edu- Region 5
animal waste and other waste by- cation about biosolids management (IL, IN, MI, MN, OH, WI) Ash Sajjad (312) 886-6112
products. options and provides continuing
education for its members. Region 6
In the future, EPA, the U.S. De- (AR, LA, NM, OK, TX) Stephanie Kordzi (214) 655-7520
partment of Agriculture, universi- Some of NBMA’s recent activities
ties, and other wastewater profes- include a monthly newsletter, an Region 7
sionals will be exploring new annual biosolids conference for (IA, KS, MO, NE) John Dunn (913) 551-7594
biosolids issues such as advanced northwestern states, the distribu-
treatment, productive uses, and tion of more than 20,000 informa- Region 8
tailor-making biosolids and other tion folders and fact sheets, train- (CO, MT, ND, SD, UT, WY) Bob Brobst (303) 293-1627
by-products for special uses yield- ing sessions, the development of a
ing a variety of environmental homepage (http:/www.nwbiosolids. Region 9
benefits. org), and demonstration projects at (AZ, CA, HI, NV, AS, GU) Lauren Fondahl (415) 744-1909
Educational Efforts Region 10
WEF is also making strides in Although NBMA’s members and (AK, ID, OR, WA) Dick Hetherington (206) 553-1941
promoting the benefits of biosolids many of their projects are in Wash-
recycling by educating the public ington, Oregon, Idaho, Alaska, EPA Headquarters Wendy Bell (202) 260-9534
through a variety of information and Canada, their public outreach
avenues. WEF produces several and information publications on
biosolids resources including a biosolids are available to anyone.
monthly newsletter, publications,
and fact sheets that are available to For more information concerning
Biosolids Information Available from NSFC
the public. WEF also sponsors a biosolids, the Part 503 Rule, con-
variety of conferences, teleconfer- tacts, and EPA’s efforts toward The following biosolids publications are available from the
ences, and on-line discussion enhancing biosolids public aware- National Small Flows Clearinghouse (NSFC). To order one or
groups that bring together the ness, contact EPA’s Office of more of the following, call (800) 624-8301 or (304) 293-4191.
major stakeholders in the biosolids Wastewater Management at (202)
arena, as well as involving the 260-7356. EPA information is also Land Application of Sewage Sludge and Domestic Septage
public’s input. available on the Internet at http:// Item #WWBKDM82
WEF offers an Internet homepage Biosolids Recycling: Beneficial Technology for a Better Environment
(http://www.wef.org/ For more biosolids information Item #WWBLGN59
biosolids.html) that provides up- from WEF, contact Loraine Logan
dated biosolids coverage from at (703) 684-2487. And for more Guide to the Biosolids Risk Assessment for the EPA Part 503 Rule
around the country, newsletter information from NBMA, call
samples, contacts, public informa- (206) 684-1145. Item #WWBKGN85
Standards for Use and Disposal of Sewage Sludge 40 CFR Part 503
WEF Offers Several Biosolids Products
Plain English Guide to the EPA Part 503 Biosolids Rule
The Water Environment Fed- that “covers every aspect of
eration (WEF) offers several biosolids management.” The Item #WWBKRG38
products that deal with biosolids bulletin addresses biosolids
issues. topics such as processing, han- Part 503 Implementation Guidance
dling, management, and benefi- Item #WWBKRG50
The Biosolids Public Accep- cial uses.
tance Digest includes recent Small Flows Summer 1996 issue
articles from the WEF publica- For more information concern- Item #GNNLBI36
tion Water Environment & ing these and other biosolids
Technology and papers pre- products, contact WEF at (800) All of the above items are free, however a shipping fee will be charged.
sented at WEF conferences. 666-0206, or send an e-mail
message to firstname.lastname@example.org. Biosolids Management Handbook for Small Publicly Owned
The Biosolids Technical Bulletin Treatment Works
is a 16-page bimonthly publication Item #WWBKMGO2. Cost is $37.50, plus shipping.
SMALL FLOWS-Fall 1997; Vol.11, No. 4 7
Washington State Approves Sequencing Batch Process
by Jeremy Canody conventional activated sludge A portion of the activated sludge is State Department of Health, said
NSFC Staff Writer systems carry out the same pro- then transferred (recirculated) back the effluent quality probably meets
cesses in separate tanks. This tech- to the sludge separator using an surface discharge levels, but he
Editor’s Note: The National Small nology also can be retrofitted to upflow air jet pump. This assures added that the Washington Depart-
Flows Clearinghouse (NSFC) does incorporate advanced disinfection that the treating volume and condi- ment of Ecology, which issues
not endorse specific wastewater as well. tions in the process vessel remain National Pollution Discharge
treatment products or technolo- constant from batch to batch. Elimination System (NPDES)
gies. The following article is pre- In general, SBR systems have five permits, currently does not issue
sented in an effort to share infor- steps that are carried out in se- After the sludge transfer is com- permits for surface discharging of
mation about emerging quence within the tank. These are: plete, the clear effluent is released individual onsite systems.
developments that could meet fill, react (aeration), settle (clarifi- from the process tank to an op-
readers’ onsite treatment needs. cation), draw (decant), and idle tional ultraviolet (UV) disinfection Long said a Washington home-
(sludge wasting). (See graphic unit where fecal coliforms are owner wanting to surface dis-
A new process that employs below.) reduced, possibly making the efflu- charge using this system would
sequencing batch reactor (SBR) ent available for reuse. The system have to become part of a public
technology to treat septic tank SBRs consist of a single process then discharges the effluent for 30 entity within a subdivision or a
effluent has been added to the tank equipped with an inlet for minutes (five gallons per minute) group of houses all using the same
Washington State Department of effluent, air diffusers with blowers to a subsurface drainfield or shal- system.
Health’s list of approved onsite and piping for aeration, a sludge low trench.
systems and products. draw-off mechanism at the bottom, Swett said his company is cur-
a decant mechanism to remove Although Thomas Incorporated rently working with Washington
Thomas Incorporated in Sedro scum, and a control mechanism to claims that the quality of the efflu- environmental officials and the
Woolley, Washington, the devel- time and sequence processes. ent coming from the TRD-1000 is U.S. Environmental Protection
oper of the new process, claims the such that it virtually eliminates the Agency to modify the state’s efflu-
quality of the effluent coming from The idle phase provides time for need for a drainfield, current state ent reuse standards to develop
their TRD-1000 system is such one reactor to complete its fill laws in Washington require that reuse options for TRD-1000 in the
that the drainfield becomes much cycle prior to switching to another the system use a subsurface future. One option being discussed
less critical as a final stage in the unit. This phase can be eliminated drainfield. involves using system effluent to
treatment process. This allows the when a continuous influent type of drip irrigate lawns and gardens.
system to operate effectively in a SBR is used. Tom Long, a waste management
wide variety of soil conditions specialist with the Washington Continued on next page
generally considered unacceptable The TRD-1000 process recently
for many onsite treatment systems. approved for use in Washington
differs somewhat from the SBR
In more than two years of testing process mentioned above in that it The sequencing batch reactor process includes five treatment
performed by NSF International is installed at a single-family resi- steps that occur in series in the same process tank.
(formerly the National Sanitation dence and not a treatment plant.
Foundation), the system consis- This system also does not use any
tently produced effluent with bio- moving valves—it relies on a
logical oxygen demand (BOD) of pressure air lock mechanism to
less than 2 mg/l (milligrams per pump the liquid through the sys-
liter) and total suspended solids tem. It operates using an auto-
(TSS) of less than 2 mg/l—levels mated on-board computer and Fill 1
that exceed NSF International’s modem.
Standard 40 for Class I Effluent
(30/30 BOD/TSS). How the System Works
Thomas Swett, Thomas Incorpo-
The system also consistently rated president and system
achieved good nitrate and fecal
coliform (FC) reduction as well
co-designer, said TRD-1000 is
capable of treating 130 gallons of
(30-day average of 47 FC/l). Influ- wastewater every three hours
ent levels ranged from 180 to 220 under the same conditions and
mg/l for BOD and TSS. timing of aeration, coagulant dos-
ing, mixing, settling, and sludge
What is SBR technology?
An alternative to conventional
return. Settle 3
activated sludge treatment, SBR He explained that waste flowing
technology is capable of achieving from the house enters a dual-cham-
high levels of BOD and TSS re- bered processing tank (standard
moval—producing effluent con- septic tank) where primary treat-
centrations of less than 10 mg/l. ment and settling take place. Once
the effluent level in the SBR cham- Draw 4
SBR technology is a fill and draw ber reaches 130 gallons, an airlock Effluent
activated sludge treatment system valve stops the flow from the
that is similar to conventional septic tank to begin treatment. The
activated sludge systems used in system then sequentially treats the
municipal wastewater treatment effluent by aeration through
facilities. However, the SBR pro- activated sludge in a process that Idle 5
cess allows for sedimentation and includes chemical flocculation,
clarification to take place sequen- which helps further water treatment.
tially in the same tank, whereas
8 SMALL FLOWS-Fall 1997; Vol.11, No. 4
L E T T E R S T O T H E E D I T O R 1991 & 1993
Continued from previous page System Features “flush and forget,” according to The system, including installation,
Thomas Incorporated manufac- Swett. They developed the idea for retails for approximately $9,000–
Computerized Monitoring System tures SBR systems that can treat this type of SBR system after visit- $12,000. Annual maintenance
The TRD-1000 relies on a comput- 500 to 1,000 gallons of effluent per ing Europe. They combined every- costs to a homeowner with the
erized 24-hour telemonitoring day (gpd). Swett explained that the thing they liked about Swedish, system are $150 if the system has
system to control system opera- system can be installed with a new Norwegian, Danish, Finnish, and UV disinfection, and $120 without
tion, alarms, and monitoring. or existing dual-chambered septic German technologies. UV disinfection. These costs in-
tank, and added that the SBR sys- clude all general maintenance,
Swett explained that with its on- tem encompasses an “After a lot of trial bulb and filter replacement, and
board computer, designed by his area similar in size and error, we devel- servicing.
associate Brian Lipscomb, the to a septic tank. The “After a lot of trial oped a great system
system knows exactly what to do state requires a mini- and error, we that should some Service agreements between the
and when to determine if the func- mum lot size of day virtually elimi- buyer and a certified service con-
tion was completed properly. 12,500 square feet
developed a great nate the need for a tractor are mandatory upon instal-
for the installation of system that should drainfield,” he said. lation and can be set up through
The control system includes an this system. the company. Swett added that any
some day virtually
LCD display interface, modem and Swett said the sys- licensed installer can easily be
telephone line interface, and visual Swett said the unit is eliminate the need for tem utilizes several certified by his company to do the
and audible alarm outputs. self-contained and a drainfield.” features to keep work.
can be installed and costs down for the
The computer is capable of execut- removed for reloca- Thomas Swett, homeowner. For Thomas Incorporated currently has
ing instructions at a rate of 5 mil- tion if necessary. example, a single two of its TRD 1000 systems in-
lion per second, and it can store Since it is self-con- Thomas Incorporated air compressor stalled at homes in Washington.
sequencing data, alarm thresholds, tained, it can be president above ground, Swett said they are seeing consis-
alarm actions, and event log data placed in or above which has no mov- tently good results that match NSF
for the previous 50 batches and 50 ground and can be ing parts in the International’s testing results.
alarms. Its analog sensors monitor installed above the septic tank to tank, is used to perform all of the
UV intensity in the disinfection save space. This will not affect the system’s pump flows. For more information on the TRD-
chamber, tank water levels, and air operation of the system, he said. 1000, contact Swett at (360) 856-
pressure. Swett said since there are no mov- 0550. To contact Long at the
These systems are designed to treat ing parts in the system, there is Washington Department of Health,
Swett said if there is a malfunc- effluent from single-family homes nothing to replace. Other features call (360) 586-8133.
tion, the computer will shut down or multi-family dwellings, such as include UV disinfecting bulbs that
the system and use a modem to apartments or duplexes, that use a are on only when the system is To find out more about SBR sys-
contact company headquarters single treatment system but do not discharging in order to extend the tems in general, contact NSFC at
with a description of the problem. exceed flow rates of 1,000 gpd. life of the bulb. The system also (800) 624-8301 or (304) 293-4191
A maintenance person will then be uses pressure sensors instead of and ask for a technical assistant.
dispatched. The TRD-1000 was designed with plant switches to maintain tank
homeowners in mind so they could levels and manifold pressure.
Small Community’s Call to NSFC Results in Big Savings
Continued from page 1 tically cut the cost of a wastewater This firm offered a plan that would “A clearinghouse for information
project.) require only one acre of land, have for something so significant as
already been spent on the project, low operation and maintenance sewage is a really valuable re-
the town learned that some funding NSFC Contacted costs, and would cost the city source,” Gnaedinger said of the
had fallen through and the state While speaking with several approximately $1.5 million—far NSFC.
could locate only $4 million–$5 people at the seminar, Gnaedinger less than the original $6 million
million for the estimated $6 mil- was given the National Small estimate. The information and contacts pro-
lion lagoon system. Flows Clearinghouse’s (NSFC) vided by the NSFC helped Palouse
phone number and told to contact The Biolac Treatment System officials contact people and organi-
Ed Gnaedinger, who had just left the organization for help. He installed in Palouse includes an zations that were able to help them
his city council position, attended a contacted Todd Olson, NSFC aerated lagoon with an integrated develop and install a successful
Small Towns Environment Pro- technical assistance specialist, clarifier. Solids gravitate to one system and cut costs by more
gram (STEP) meeting in Spokane, who suggested that the city end and then into a separate com- than half.
Washington, to learn how to break investigate an innovative biologi- partment. The system then uses
the news to town residents. cal treatment process he had ultraviolet disinfection to further “Our job here at the clearinghouse
recently seen demonstrated. Olson treat the effluent. The treatment is to help people,” Olson said. “It’s
STEP helps rural towns identify offered Gnaedinger several con- produces good quality sludge, always nice to hear back from
and capitalize on untapped com- tacts, including a city in New York which is extracted and land applied. people who’ve benefited from the
munity resources to afford water that had faced a similar situation. information we provide.”
and wastewater projects. The effluent discharged by
After studying the innovative tech- Palouse’s new system has a BOD For assistance with your
“(The city) wanted to raise rates to nology and contacting a city in of 5mg/l, TSS level of 5 mg/1, and community’s wastewater treatment
finance this project, and the people similar circumstances, Palouse a TKN of .9mg/1. needs, contact the NSFC’s techni-
were going to have to give up their officials terminated the contract cal assistance specialists at (800)
Saturdays to get out their shovels with the engineering firm. To The water is now cleaner than the 624-8301.
and help dig.” (An article on page evaluate the viability of this tech- river into which it is discharged.
11 explains how one Washington nology for their needs, the city The new system has even weath-
community’s self-help efforts dras- hired another engineering firm. ered a flood.
SMALL FLOWS-Fall 1997; Vol.11, No. 4 9
Help for Colonias
EPA Assists Poor Communities on U.S.–Mexico Border
by Michelle Moore ronmental conditions along the projects are underway, 39 of them or septic tanks. More than $4 mil-
finance NSFC Contributing Writer border. having progressed to the design or
construction phase. The combined
lion has been used by several
communities to date.
Many families have moved to the Because of the lack of sanitation improvements will help 282,000
areas along the U.S.–Mexico bor- facilities, raw sewage flows colonias residents. New Mexico’s Environment De-
der with hopes of good jobs and a through and from these communi- partment has received $20 million
better life, but the living conditions ties. Often, pit privies stand near Tough laws have helped stop the from the EPA. This program offers
in the poorest border communities shallow wells, contaminating the building of new colonias. Never- grants and low interest loans to
leave much to be desired. only source of drinking water. theless, recent surveys by Texas sponsoring local governments to
Waterborne diseases such as infec- officials show that infrastructure construct or improve sewers and
Many immigrants could afford to tious hepatitis and gastroenteric needs have increased with the wastewater treatment facilities. So
continued growth in already-estab- far, $14 million has been awarded
lished colonias. for 13 projects in New Mexico’s
colonias, with four of them under
Three programs help with colonia design or construction.
infrastructure improvements in
Texas: Boosting Awareness
“Progress is being made not only
The Economically Distressed in the construction of projects, but
Areas Program, a Texas state other benefits are occurring,”
funded program, offers grants and Hogye said. “There has been an
U.S. loans for wastewater disposal increase in community awareness
colonias facilities or water supply improve- of problems and in the involve-
ments. ment of residents toward resolving
Similarly, the Colonias Wastewa-
ter Treatment Assistance Program “Some communities are actively
offers assistance for construction, engaged in self-help projects, for
Mexico acquisition, or improvements of example, where residents are as-
wastewater facilities in border sisting in construction, such as the
colonias. digging of trenches to run pipe
connections from the home to
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is helping communities on
The Colonias Plumbing Loan water and wastewater lines. And,
the U.S.–Mexico border improve their environmental infrastructure.
Program began in 1991 with a $15 while EPA has not directly given
million grant from the EPA. The any grants specifically for colonia
buy only properties that consisted infections are common, and chol- program offers loans to local gov- self-help projects, the agency defi-
of shoddy housing on unproductive era is always an ominous threat, ernments, who then provide loans nitely supports the concept,”
plots of land. according to the U.S. Environmental to area residents for assistance in Hogye added.
Protection Agency (EPA). installing basic plumbing facilities
The term colonia, which is Spanish plus connections to sewer systems Continued on page 12
for neighborhood, has been applied Working Toward Solutions
to the unincorporated subdivisions The EPA is actively involved in
characterized by substandard hous- remedying the problems associated Colonias Information on the Internet
ing, poor access to potable water, with the colonias. The greatest
and no wastewater sanitation fa- needs are for sewage collection, The Internet has many sites with colonias information. The sites
cilities. The colonias, as a whole, treatment, and disposal; potable include information about public facilities and social and environ-
lack any kind of infrastructure, and water supply; and residential mental justice issues. Among the sites are:
the inhabitants’ incomes prevent plumbing.
them from being able to finance Texas A&M Colonias Program:
municipal improvements on their “Of all the environmental public
own. health problems along the U.S.
side of the border, those of the
Economically Distressed Area Program of the Texas Water
Three hundred thousand or so colonias are the most severe,” said
people live in colonias along the Steve Hogye, project manager for
U.S. side of the border. Most EPA’s Colonia Wastewater Assis- http://www.twdb.state.tx.us/www/twdb/fin/edapfund.html
growth has been in Texas and New tance Program. “EPA’s goal has
Mexico, where 1,200 of the settle- been to establish a cooperative Colonias Issues from the Texas Attorney General:
ments have sprung up along the funding partnership with the states http://www.oag.state.tx.us/WEBSITE/TEXMEX/COLONIAS/coldb.htm
border. While colonias residents to address the urgent wastewater
are largely Hispanic in origin, most needs identified in colonias that Texas/Mexico Borderlands Data and Information Center:
are U.S. citizens, and many fami- were built prior to the adoption of http://www.twdb.state.tx.us/www/blands/colonia_proj.html
lies have been in this country for recent land use legislation.”
generations. LBJ School of Public Affairs, Colonias Policy Research Project:
Since 1993 the EPA has invested http://www.lanic.utexas.edu/la/Mexico/colonias/landregs.html
Living conditions in the colonias $270 million in grants to Texas
were brought to the forefront with and New Mexico for wastewater LBJ School of Public Affairs Public Research Policy Report on
passage of the North American facilities. In Texas, where pro- Colonias Housing and Infrastructure:
Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) grams are overseen by the state
and subsequent concern for envi- Water Development Board, 89
10 SMALL FLOWS-Fall 1997; Vol.11, No. 4
Community Uses ‘Self Help’ to Save Money
by P.J. Cameon
Small Flows Editor
Faced with a troubled wastewater
system and a hefty price estimate
to address the problems, residents
of a small Washington community
took matters into their own hands.
The town of Wilkeson, with just
over 400 residents, is one of many
communities around the country
that have made the most of local
talents and resources by using the
self-help concepts espoused by the
Small Towns Environment Pro-
Wilkeson’s wastewater system
could not meet its discharge permit
requirements due to a failing col-
lection system with high levels of
inflow and infiltration (I/I) during
wet weather, inadequate treatment,
and high ammonia levels. The
system also lacked an alternate Communities can dramatically reduce the costs of their wastewater system projects if residents
source of power to pump sewage are willing to roll up their sleeves and do some of the work themselves. Residents of Wilkeson,
through lift stations during power Washington, pitched in to replace portions of their treatment system. Photo by David Pierini/The
outages. (Tacoma) News Tribune
“We were faced with a $1.2 million The cost savings was terrific. For upgrade is being put out to bid. Is STEP possible in your town?
price tag to upgrade our treatment example, having an outside expert Town officials were recently noti- The idea of residents pitching in to
plant, lift stations, and collection complete the facilities plan would fied that the Washington Depart- help their community is not a new
system,” said Paula Perry, the have cost about $10,000, but com- ment of Ecology is awarding the one. But the guidance provided in
Wilkeson resident spearheading the munity volunteers spent just $90 community a grant for the treat- the STEP process can help apply
community’s self-help effort, which by updating a previously prepared ment plant upgrade. that volunteer spirit to even an
was dubbed “STEP Wilkeson.” plan. intricate project such as a waste-
“‘STEP Wilkeson’ will remain water system upgrade.
The construction expenses, spread The first phase of the system up- actively involved in all phases of
over such a small population base, grade, replacing a large portion of construction,” Perry said. “We are For a STEP effort to be successful,
would have resulted in a six-fold the collection system to address I/I planning to build the laboratory
increase in sewage rates. Such a concerns, is well underway. Town facility ourselves.” Continued on page 12
hike would have been especially residents have already replaced the
painful for the one-third of town main sewer line.
residents who are retired, unem-
Self Help Requires Cooperative Engineers
ployed, or living below the poverty “It took us a long time, but we did
a really good job. And working Before starting a “self-help” water To order a Selecting Your Engi-
together really did build commu- or wastewater project, it’s best to neer binder, send $15.00 plus $3
nity spirit,” said Perry. “Now make sure the engineer hired for postage to Small Towns Environ-
Residents Take Control
we’ve got the town council to pass the project shares the community’s ment Program, The
After consulting with STEP and
an ordinance allowing us to re- enthusiasm for the concept, ac- Rensselaerville Institute, P.O.
representatives of Washington’s
place side sewers as laterals.” cording to Jane Schautz. Box 128, Rensselaerville, NY
Department of Ecology, town
12147, or call (518) 797-3783.
residents decided to complete
The town had received an estimate Schautz is vice president of The
much of the work themselves.
Rensselaerville Institute, a na- An additional resource concern-
Janice Roderick and Kathy Kupps of $150,000 to replace the collec-
tion system, but with community tional organization that guides ing the selection of a consultant
with the Department of Ecology
volunteers, the work is being com- communities planning self-help is the Winter 1997 issue of Pipe-
have been supportive of the self-
and development projects. line. The newsletter, titled
help effort, visiting the community pleted for less than $30,000.
“Choosing the Right Consultant
“Saving that much money benefits The Rensselaerville Institute for your Wastewater Project,”
not only the town of Wilkeson but recently published Selecting Your includes suggestions for develop-
Residents gathered community
the state as well,” Perry said. Engineer, a how-to guide for ing requests for proposals,
data concerning income, popula-
“Now they can take the balance of selecting the best project consult- screening proposals, interview-
tion, and number of households.
the money they had set aside for ant. The guide discusses prelimi- ing candidates, and negotiating
The information was required for
our project and use it on another nary considerations in selecting contracts. To order, contact the
grant and loan applications they
an engineer and provides actual National Small Flows Clearing-
completed. Residents also prepared project elsewhere.”
questions to use in checking house at (800) 624-8301. Re-
a facilities plan, conducted a
references and interviewing and quest Item #SFPLNL08. The cost
search for and hired a project engi- Community residents do not have
assessing candidates. Sample is 20 cents.
neer, obtained property easements, the capability to complete the
entire project, however. Work requests for proposals and other
and negotiated prices for project
relating to the treatment plant relevant documents are included.
materials and equipment.
SMALL FLOWS-Fall 1997; Vol.11, No. 4 11
EPA Small Community Chief To Assist Border Agencies
The chief of the U.S. Environmen- border. The two international orga- NADBank is leading the effort to programs that will help border
tal Protection Agency’s (EPA) nizations were established under finance, identify funding sources, communities (small communities
Municipal Assistance Branch has side agreements that were signed and blend loan and grant funds in in particular).
been given a new assignment to along with the North American such a way that projects will be
aid environmental infrastructure Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) affordable for the border commu- No successor to Allbee has been
development along the U.S.– in November 1993. nities. NADBank has a loan capac- named. However, EPA officials
Mexico border. ity of about $2 billion. NADBank stressed that their efforts to provide
The organizations are tasked with also manages a $170-million Bor- small communities with wastewa-
Steve Allbee will depart from his assisting communities on both der Environment Infrastructure ter treatment assistance will remain
current position this fall for the sides of the border to develop Fund, which offers EPA-funded a priority. These efforts include the
one-year assignment. infrastructure projects to address grants to be used in conjunction National Small Flows Clearing-
environmental and public health with loans. house, National Environmental
Allbee will assist the Border Envi- problems, especially those with a Training Center for Small Commu-
ronment Cooperation Commission cross-border impact. In his new assignment, Allbee will nities, Rural Community Assis-
(BECC) and the North American help to expedite projects, assist in tance Program, the colonias pro-
Development Bank (NADBank) in The BECC is primarily responsible establishing funding partnerships, gram, and tribal programs. (See
the development of environmental for the technical development and and facilitate the development of page 10 for an update on efforts to
infrastructure projects along the screening of projects, while training and technical assistance assist border colonias.)
EPA Assists Poor Border Communities The National Small Flows Clearinghouse,
established by the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency under the federal Clean
Water Act (CWA) in 1977 and located at
Continued from page 10 Bank (NADBank) and the Border $100 million for the general border West Virginia University, gathers and
Environment Cooperation Com- environmental infrastructure pro- distributes information about small
The EPA’s involvement in helping mission, the EPA helps border gram for fiscal year 1998. community wastewater systems. Small
communities fund water and Flows is published quarterly.
colonias resolve their wastewater
problems has focused on Texas’s wastewater projects through a For more information about EPA’s Small Flows
and New Mexico’s borders, but the combination of loans and grants. efforts, contact Oscar Cabra with Sponsored by:
agency also helps fund a program Some of the projects under consid- EPA’s Region 6 office in Dallas, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
of water and wastewater assistance eration will benefit the colonias. Texas, at (214) 665-2718, or Steve Hogye, Project Officer
to border communities in all bor- Hogye at EPA Headquarters at Municipal Support Division
der states, including Arizona and EPA is requesting an appropriation (202) 260-5841. Office of Wastewater Management
California. In conjunction with the of $50 million from Congress for
North American Development its colonias assistance program and National Small Flows Clearinghouse
West Virginia University
John L. Mori, Ph.D., Manager,
Community Uses ‘Self-Help’ to Save Money WVU Environmental Services
and Training Division
Peter Casey, P. Eng.
Continued from page 11 other ingredients needed for a vital role in our successes. It has NSFC Program Coordinator
P.J. Cameon, Editor
successful self-help effort—a brought our community closer Jeremy Canody, Staff Writer
the community must have an in- dedicated group of volunteers who together.” Natalie Eddy, Staff Writer
formed community eager to ad- are willing to work hard and stick Daniel Gloyd, Graphic Designer
dress the problem and a supportive with the project long-term. Perry said her community was also
International Standard Serial Number
town government and project engi- fortunate to select a consultant 1060-0035
neer (see page 11). “The other night I was jotting interested in seeing the community
down the names of all of the succeed with its self-help efforts. Article Submissions
A community also needs a local people who have contributed to Small Flows welcomes letters to the editor,
articles, news items, photographs, or other
“spark plug” with the energy and this project. Frankly, I was sur- “Our engineering firm, Gray and materials for publication. Please address
leadership ability to keep the prised at how long the list was,” Osborne of Seattle, gave us a lot of correspondence to:
project going. Perry filled that role Perry said of the Wilkeson project. really good advice when we were
“And each volunteer has played a getting started. We were told that Editor, Small Flows
for Wilkeson. Wilkeson had the
National Small Flows Clearinghouse
the unexpected would happen and West Virginia University
not to be disillusioned because P.O. Box 6064
Morgantown, WV 26506-6064
Guide Discusses Homeowner Issues those things happen on every job,”
Perry said. “We learned to be 1-800-624-8301 or
Homeowners interested in how their more about. Topics include patient.” http://www.nsfc.wvu.edu
day-to-day activities can impact the stormwater management,
Not every small community has Reprints
environment may be interested in household wastewater, lead, yard
For permission to reprint information
Home*A*Syst: An Environmental and garden care, and household the willingness or ability to use the appearing in Small Flows, please send a
Risk Assessment Guide for the waste management. STEP method, but where STEP is letter of request to the editor.
Home. a fit, the savings in using local
skills and labor can be tremendous. Small Flows is funded by the
To order a single copy of U.S.Environmental Protection Agency.
The 122-page guide, produced by Home*A* Syst, send $8 plus $3 The contents of this newsletter do not
the Northeast Regional Agricultural shipping and handling to NRAES, For more information about STEP, necessarily reflect the views and policies
Engineering Service (NRAES), is Cooperative Extension, 152 Riley- contact The Rensselaerville Insti- of the Environmental Protection Agency,
tute at (518) 797-3783. nor does mention of trade names or
designed to help rural and suburban Robb Hall, Ithaca, NY 14853- commercial products constitute endorse-
residents evaluate their homes for 5701. For information about ment or recommendation for use.
safety and environmental risks. quantity orders, call NRAES at
(607) 255-7654, or send e-mail to Small Flows is printed
on recycled paper.
The guide covers 11 topics that email@example.com.
homeowners may want to learn
12 SMALL FLOWS-Fall 1997; Vol.11, No. 4
Is there activity in your state?
Keeping Track of Onsite Training Centers Around the U.S.
The National Small Flows Clear- ties, NSFC and NETCSC are help- State center, and developed train- move their efforts forward,” Mori
inghouse (NSFC) and the National ing some organizations develop ing materials that can be adopted said, adding that NSFC is explor-
Environmental Training Center for their training centers. for use in other training centers. ing the possibility of establishing
Small Communities (NETCSC) are an electronic forum to allow train-
actively following developments “We’ve recognized this emerging In addition, participants in ing center directors around the
around the U.S. concerning onsite trend [toward developing centers to NETCSC’s Onsite Wastewater U.S. to exchange information and
wastewater treatment training centers. improve training opportunities], and System Operation and Mainte- share their experiences in getting
we’re working to provide assistance nance train-the-trainer courses training centers up and running..
Many state-level organizations are where we can to help get centers off have used the courses materials
bringing onsite centers online, the ground,” Mori said. “We’re also and information to help establish To share information about your
while others are actively working eager to share the information we onsite training centers in their state’s activities concerning onsite
toward opening centers in their have gathered so people developing home states. (See ordering infor- training efforts, or to request assis-
states. At least one state, North new training centers don’t have to mation below.) tance with your efforts, contact the
Carolina, is planning a second- ‘reinvent the wheel.’” NSFC at (800) 624-8301.
generation training center to incor- Tracking Activities
porate the latest treatment tech- The two organizations can assist NSFC is stepping up efforts to To order the complete Onsite
nologies. trainers as they develop courses by follow developments with onsite Wastewater System Operation and
sharing technical and training infor- training centers around the U.S. Maintenance Trainers Package,
“The concept of onsite system mation housed in their databases. Future issues of Small Flows will contact the NETCSC at the number
training centers is really starting to And NSFC continues to work with contain updates of onsite training above. Request Item #TRTPCD09.
catch on, and the range of activi- states and the U.S. Environmental center activities. The cost is $273.00, plus shipping.
ties taking place at those centers is Protection Agency to serve as a
expanding,” said John Mori, man- funding manager to help states set “By explaining what’s happening See articles below for information
ager of West Virginia University’s up training centers. Previously, with other centers, Small Flows about onsite training center activi-
Environmental Services and Train- NSFC managed the development of can help officials in other areas ties in Florida and Alabama.
ing Division, which includes the the Northern New England Waste-
NSFC and NETCSC. “Each train- water Training Center in Vermont.
ing center has a unique flavor that
reflects the local partnerships that
NETCSC has provided funding
and training support to assist the
Florida Group Planning Onsite
A Helping Hand
development of some of the new
onsite wastewater training centers.
Wastewater Training Center
With their national perspective and It provided seed funding curricu- A proposed onsite center in Florida which technologies would be in-
information processing capabili- lum development for the Washington would improve training efforts in stalled at the proposed center.
that state and possibly beyond, Lynch said the state Department of
according to Bob Lynch, executive Health is providing input on this
Alabama Onsite Center Tackles director of the Florida Septic Tank matter, and he added that the deci-
Association (FSTA). sion will also depend on which
Challenging Conditions Lynch said the training center
technologies are appropriate for
the selected site.
The new Alabama Onsite Waste- filter, a peat system, a constructed would be beneficial to his
water Training Center will provide wetland, a low-pressure distribu- organization’s 400-plus members Lynch mentioned that several
a first-hand opportunity to deal tion system, and a drip emitter who are among more than 700 dozen registered Florida contrac-
with site conditions that can lead to system. Additional technologies registered septic tank contractors in tors have completed the 30 addi-
onsite system failure. may be added later. Florida. He added that the tourist tional hours of coursework needed
attractions in his state could help to be certified as master septic tank
The center is located near the Uni- Course Offerings Planned the center draw a national audience. contractors. He said some of these
versity of West Alabama in The onsite training center is sched- master contractors could be tapped
Livingston. Nearby soils do not uled to be in full operation by “It’s going to open all kinds of as teaching faculty at the new
perc adequately for conventional spring 1998. The center plans to training options. The members are training center.
septic systems to work properly, offer classes to installers, public very excited about it,” Lynch said.
according to Lesley Garner, the health workers, and the general Currently, FSTA’s onsite training is Lynch said the training center could
center’s director. The state Depart- public. Classes offered will in- limited to classroom lectures. Al- eventually serve as permanent
ment of Public Health recently volve system installation and though there is no set timetable for headquarters for the organization,
estimated that 90 percent of the maintenance and discussions of construction, Lynch said he is hope- but he stressed that the organization
current onsite disposal systems in new technologies. ful the training center could be is currently focused on getting the
this area of Alabama will eventu- opened sometime during 1998, the training aspects finalized.
ally fail. “Our long-range goal is to develop organization’s silver anniversary.
a year-round training center that Lynch noted that an onsite waste-
“A training center was needed includes examples of all new tech- Currently, members are exploring water research facility is operating
because most traditional septic nologies that work in the South,” legal issues, studying proposed in the Florida Keys, but the pro-
tank systems will not work in this said Garner. sites, and learning about similar posed FSTA facility would be the
area—installers, public health training centers in other states. He first in the state “in terms of a
officials, and local citizens needed For more information about the said a central Florida location is hands-on training center.”
to be educated on alternative Alabama onsite training center, likely, but other sites are being
wastewater systems,” Garner said. contact Garner at (205) 652-3400, investigated as well. A final deci- For more information about the
ext. 3242. Her e-mail address is sion on a site is expected this fall. proposed onsite training center in
The training center will offer five firstname.lastname@example.org. Florida, contact Lynch at (904)
alternative technologies—a sand The organization is also still studying 454-4030.
SMALL FLOWS-Fall 1997; Vol.11, No. 4 13
‘Outhouse Specialist’ Fans Nostalgia for Simpler Days
by Michelle Moore authorities on outhouses and their
NSFC Contributing Writer accouterments.
Sam Robertson can claim his Although outhouse use in the U.S.
unofficial title of “outhouse spe- today is largely limited to special-
cialist” honestly. He frequently ized applications, Robertson said
encountered outhouse-related that many poor and remote rural
issues during his more than 20 residents in the U.S. still use them
years with the Alabama Depart- as a primary means of wastewater
ment of Public Health. disposal.
From school sanitation to onsite “Outhouses are still legally used
waste treatment systems, today in Alabama, as well as a
Robertson lived in a world of number of other states that have
specifications and regulations. residences without running water
For him and his colleagues, hu- available,” Robertson explained.
mor lightened that world.
“I love outhouses for their age and
“I began collecting environment- character. However, they are not
related cartoons and was known the most desirable means of sew-
to post them on the office bulle- age treatment. The waste is treated
tin board or on my office wall. by anaerobic bacteria, which is less
One of my duties was training effective than the aerobic bacteria
environmental and industry per- that assist with treatment in an
sonnel, so I naturally used car- effluent disposal ditch.”
toons throughout my presenta-
tions to highlight special points According to Still Living Without
or just to break up dull sections the Basics, a report published by
such as regulations.” the National Rural Community
Assistance Program in 1995, more
A good trainer needs to inject than 400,000 rural households do
humor into a presentation, not have complete bathrooms that
Robertson added. “I’ve even include a flush toilet, a bathtub or
heard of instructors starting a shower, and a wash basin with
Sam Robertson came across this display outhouse while visiting an
class in costume to make the amusement park in Alabama. Robertson gained an interest in piped-in water.
subject more interesting. Dry outhouses during his career in public health.
presentations are boring! You Robertson has had plenty of oppor-
can’t be funny to everyone, but tunities to hone his expertise on the
you can try.” Posters Spur Collection For instance, last year he spoke at dynamics of the outhouse in his
While looking through old health a meeting in Connecticut and was home state. According to the re-
Beginning his career with the department files, Robertson found given an outhouse-shaped gumball port, Alabama ranked seventh
Montgomery County Health De- some pit privy posters dated 1947. dispenser by a salesman from nationwide with nearly 44,000
partment in 1973, Robertson rose He found old outhouse bulletins, Georgia. houses having no basic indoor
through the ranks to become blueprints for construction, old plumbing. Robertson said the
deputy director of the Division of photographs, and several issues of That’s not all—by any means. World Health Organization notes
Community Environmental Protec- Pit Privy News from the 1940s. that various types of privies are
tion and director of the Soil and “My collection also includes an- still widely used in many Third
Onsite Sewage Branch, the posi- “My interest in outhouses had tique postcards from the 1940s, World countries as well.
tion from which he retired in 1995. begun,” Robertson said. From that photographs, prints, posters, greet-
He has coordinated many onsite moment, he began to find outhouse ing cards, a Father’s Day card Outhouse Evolution
sewage disposal conferences and motifs in all sorts of unlikely made by my daughter, and water- The outhouse, also known as the
has overseen a constructed wet- places—like in newspaper comic color paintings. I have outhouses privy, john, backhouse, donnicker,
lands project in northeast Ala- strips. “I’m a newspaper lover and painted on old “potty” or “slop jar” ajax, or loo, served mankind for cen-
bama. read my daily paper from cover to lids, ceramic tile, tobacco tins, turies before running water allowed
cover. Surprisingly, some cartoons wood, linen, needlepoint, and slate. for modern disposal methods.
Today, Robertson owns a consult- frequently have outhouses either I have antique and modern out-
ing business that works with uni- featured or subtly placed in them.” house salt and pepper shakers. I Essentially, the outhouse was no
versities, trade associations, and He added that “The Far Side,” have toothpick holders, puzzles, more complex than four walls
various companies to resolve their “B.C.,” “Tumbleweeds,” card decks, coasters, and an out- enclosing a raised seat with an
onsite wastewater treatment and “Garfield,” “Ziggy,” and “Mother house pencil holder made of one- oblong hole cut from the center
disposal issues. Goose & Grimm” can be relied eighth-inch steel.” and a pit dug below the seat to
upon for a bit of privy humor now hold the waste. Variations could
Those many years working with and then. As if that weren’t enough, his wife include windows or an extra,
onsite systems, both simple and even owns a pair of tiny silver smaller hole with a step up to it to
sophisticated, contributed to Robertson’s cartoon collecting led outhouse earrings that she saves accommodate a child’s needs.
Robertson’s compulsion to collect to an array of other finds. He has for special occasions. Other amenities were added ac-
outhouse memorabilia. He has privy-themed books, matches, cording to the owner’s social status
seen just about every kind and models, banks, and music boxes Aside from this avid collecting, and personal interests.
shape of outhouse, from tidy ex- that line shelves on three walls of Robertson has explored the world
amples of colonial architecture to his office. His friends and associ- of basic waste treatment to become Continued on next page
dilapidated shacks. ates constantly add to the collection. one of the nation’s foremost
14 SMALL FLOWS-Fall 1997; Vol.11, No. 4
Continued from previous page nology. The backyard outhouse,
for the most part, sank and sagged
The moon symbol frequently cut its way into oblivion. As a result,
into the door originally indicated the outhouse has a somewhat nos-
that the outhouse was for women, talgic reputation, except to those
and a star meant it was for men. who actually had no other choice
than to use one.
People had naive ideas about the
association between sewage and Those people remember more
disease. As far as those who used realistically the inconvenience of
an outhouse were concerned, the the outhouse. They remember—
structure fulfilled a basic need very but not fondly—the bees that
well. Little thought was directed its nested under the seat. Outhouses
way—except when the wind meant serious odors in the sum-
turned. Proximity to the water mer, late night dashes from a warm
supply was seldom considered. In house in the winter, and a not-too-
fact, outhouses were frequently pleasant task for the one chosen to
positioned near, or even over, clean out the pit. No nostalgia for
streams. these folks.
Throughout history, stories have Millions of New Privies
surfaced about some creative ways President Franklin D. Roosevelt This outhouse design, by Tennessee officials, included a vent to release
in which inventive persons have formed the Works Progress Ad- fumes from the pit below.
improved on personal waste dis- ministration (WPA) during the
posal, but the ideas usually died 1930s as part of a larger strategy toSome people still believe that Robertson said he heard a ruckus
with their creator. pull the country out of economic outhouses can serve the same near a privy one night. It seems
depression. One of the many purpose as a septic system. There that one of the scouts had carried a
For example, in the 19th century, projects the WPA undertook was are similarities between some favorite knife into the privy and
some hotels had two-story out- building more than 2 million “sani- outhouse arrangements and septic dropped it down through the seat.
houses with access for second tary privies” around the country. systems, but septic systems handle
floor guests. The facilities still other household wastewaters. The “Troop members then lowered the
were nothing more than an enclo- Work crews rebuilt the outhouses most common relatives of the scout down through the privy hole
sure and a seat with a hole, but that were worth saving, and a outhouse are the portable toilets to recover the knife,” Robertson
with offset plumbing to avoid the family could pay $5 for a new that provide relief to crowds at said. “He returned to earth thanks
lower stall. privy constructed to federal stan- fairs, concerts, construction sites, to a bright spotlight, a strong rope,
dards. Families who couldn’t af- and similar gatherings of short and well-tied knots, without prob-
Population increases and gains in ford the charge could apply to have duration. lems. But, the said scout had fewer
personal wealth, plus discovery of one built for free. These “hand- friends, due to his ‘organic coat-
the relationship between diseases out” privies became the focus of Certain conditions, such as remote- ing’ and accompanying odor.”
and sanitation, prompted advance- political jokes based on their vote- ness or lack of running water, can Robertson directed the boy to a
ments in waste management tech- getting ability. justify the use of non-waterborne nearby shower, after which he
systems such as pit privies, regained his friends and the
composting, or electric toilets. cleaned-up knife. (Note: People
They must meet size, depth, should not enter an outhouse pit
strength, and sanitation standards. due to the possible concentration
Stationary pit toilets are often of dangerous gases.)
found at rural campgrounds and
seasonal recreation areas. Through his use of cartoons and his
sense of humor, Robertson has
Conveying the Message found a means of conveying techni-
Robertson uses outhouses as a tool cal information more understand-
to promote his message. For in- ably to his audiences, whatever
stance, this past summer he used their ages or backgrounds. His
his outhouse gumball dispenser to outhouse collection represents more
gain the attention of Boy Scouts at than an interest in novelties; certain
Camp Tukabatchee in Alabama, items have become learning tools.
where he promoted a nonpoint
source education project. If you share Robertson’s interest in
outhouses, you may reach him at
The Tukabatchee Area Council is Robertson Consulting, 141 Melmar
sponsoring the project in local Drive, Prattville, AL 36067-1617,
schools with Robertson serving as or call (334) 365-8939, or e-mail
the coordinator. Robertson said he to OnsiteSam@aol.com.
considers this volunteer work as a
partial pay back, since he was a Some of the information for this
staff member at the camp from article was gleaned from The
1958 to 1962. Vanishing American Outhouse
by Ronald S. Barlow and Privy,
Kentucky’s Department of Health developed this outhouse design He recalled a particularly interest- The Classic Outhouse Book by
circa 1918. ing evening at the camp. While he Janet and Richard Strombeck.
was a provisional troop leader,
SMALL FLOWS-Fall 1997; Vol.11, No. 4 15
advice Vacuum Sewers
N SFC Hotline
Editor’s Note: This column is tional oxygen for wastewater treat- and cost-effectively. Division operate and maintain. Previous
based on calls received over the ment during transport. valves break the system into experience suggests that each
National Small Flows Clearing- smaller parts to ease maintenance. valve requires three to five hours
house’s (NSFC) technical assis- Use of a pressure difference for of maintenance per year, while
tance hotline. The information was motive force to propel the sewage Two significant costs for the system maintenance of the system
compiled by Ed Winant, Ph.D., of also allows a relative freedom of are the onsite valves and the collec- amounts to 15-30 hours per 1,000
the technical assistance staff. If design in horizontal and vertical tion station. Each hookup requires a feet of pipe per year.
you have a question, call (800) alignment. Pipes are not required valve and valve pit, which costs
624-8301 or (304) 293-4191. Vacuum sewers are not
the answer to every
Our community needs Valve pit wastewater problem.
a wastewater collec- Air They have definite ad-
tion system for our vantages, but there are
lagoon. We are in a many cases where onsite
rural setting on one- systems or another form
to two-acre lots on Sewage of collection system is
rolling hills. Gravity more economical or
sewers would be quite beneficial.
Main Vacuum tank
heard about vacuum In areas of moderate
sewers as an alterna- population density, with
tive. What are vacuum sewers, to be straight. They may bend approximately $2,000. The valve rolling or very flat terrain, high
and how do they work? What are around intervening obstacles, such pit stores household sewage, about bedrock or water tables, vacuum
their advantages and disadvan- as ponds or large rocks. In terms of 30 gallons, and holds the vacuum sewers are advantageous. For high
tages? Are they cost-effective? stream crossings, this can represent interface valve. When enough sew- population-density areas, conven-
a significant savings over conven- age has collected, the valve opens, tional gravity sewers are usually
Vacuum sewers are a type of alter- tional sewers, which would require admitting the sewage and air into the best choice.
native, small-diameter collection lift stations, inverted siphons, or the sewer. Depending on layout,
system. A vacuum sewer consists much deeper excavation down- one valve pit can serve up to four For small systems, grinder pump
of onsite valve pits, small-diameter stream of a crossing. houses, which can significantly or septic tank effluent pump sew-
sewer mains, and a central vacuum reduce the cost per residence. ers may be more cost effective.
collection station. The pressure difference allows for These pressure sewers would also
slight vertical rises, enough to The other major cost is the collection be more appropriate where the
Vacuum pumps at the collection surmount short grades. A vacuum station, which costs about $200,000 sewer lines ascend heights greater
station maintain a vacuum through- system can handle maximum verti- for the entire system. Typically a than 26 feet.
out the system. Sewage from one to cal distances of about 26 feet. In collection station handles 200–500
four houses collects in a valve pit, rolling terrain, this means that the homes, or flows of up to 50,000 Each situation should be evaluated
and when enough wastewater has usual pipe layout follows the to- gallons per day. This is basically a by a competent consultant to select
accumulated, the valve opens. This pography of the ground, buried fixed cost, and thus provides some the best solution.
admits sewage and air into the main, low enough to avoid the frost line economy for larger systems.
where it is pulled by the vacuum to and to resist traffic loads, thus reduc- See page 7 of the products insert
the central station. At the collection ing excavation costs considerably. The station also requires a trained in the center of this newsletter
station, centrifugal pumps send the operator, though not necessarily a for a listing of vacuum sewer-
sewage to a treatment facility. Another advantage is the vacuum. full-time employee. Though the related products available from
In mixing the sewage with air, system sounds technologically the NSFC.
Vacuum sewers share several some treatment takes place in the complex, in practice it is simple to
advantages with other small-diam- sewer line. Additionally, this re-
eter sewers, including smaller, less duces potential odors, while the Stream Crossing
expensive plastic pipes; reduced vacuum keeps noxious fumes in
excavation costs; relative freedom the pipe. Odor problems may occur
in horizontal alignment; and fewer at the collection station, but vent-
restrictions on pipe slopes. Also, ing to a soil scrubber is an easy
they don’t require the installation solution.
A vacuum sewer
of manholes, which can cost be-
tween $1,000–$2,000 each. The pressure difference also in-
which does not
sures that sewage will stay in the
Conventional Sewer require manholes
The sewage is propelled by a pres- pipe and not leak out, even if a
sure difference between the air rupture occurs in the line, since the
admitted through the valve and the line pressure is less than atmo-
be installed much
vacuum in the line. This results in spheric. A vacuum loss, which
cheaper than a
a slug of wastewater being forced occurs when the pipe is damaged,
rapidly through the main. The solid is noticeable at the collection sta-
matter is broken up and aerated, tion and easily isolated with the
allowing the use of smaller pipes many division valves and pressure
since blockages are not a problem. sensors placed in the system. Thus,
The aeration also provides addi- repairs can be performed quickly
16 SMALL FLOWS-Fall 1997; Vol.11, No. 4
Wastewater Information Available On the Web
There is virtually an unlimited Enviro-Access This online document discusses the programs and a link to download
supply of wastewater-related sites http://www.enviroaccess.ca reclamation of wastewater for some of NSF International’s publi-
on the Internet. The following irrigation in Ohio. It explains siting, cations.
Available in both English and
listing is only a sample of the design, and management, and it
French, this Canadian site is dedi-
information that is available. includes related tables and figures. @aqueous
cated to helping small and medium-
sized environmental organizations http://www.aqueous.com/
Please note that the National Small Government Institutes
in the development of new tech- This site offers a search engine
Flows Clearinghouse (NSFC) does http://www.govinst.com
nologies and in the advancement dedicated to finding water-related
not endorse any particular Web
of their businesses. This site houses This site provides practical infor- sites of all sorts.
sites and reminds readers that
information on upcoming confer- mation regarding the environment,
information available at these sites
ences, environmental fact sheets, health and safety, telecommunica- The Groundwater Foundation
is not guaranteed to be accurate.
and products. tions, the Internet, Code of Federal http://www.groundwater.
The addresses and descriptive
Regulations, and natural resources. org/index.htm
information below were current at
Toiletology 101—A Complete Information about publications and
the time of publication. Dedicated to informing the public
Course in Toilet Training seminars is also available from this
about groundwater, this site offers
Links to other sites are available at information about the Groundwa-
the NSFC’s Web site at; This virtual course explains a ter Guardian program. There’s also
The Boston Harbor Cleanup:
http://www.nsfc.wvu.edu range of toilet-related problems a children’s education section.
The Deer Island Sewage Treat-
and troubleshooting options, in-
New England Interstate Water cluding repairing flush and refill Waterwatch Australia
valves and how to test for leaks. http://www.history.rochester.
Pollution Control Commission http://kaos.erin.gov.au/
The site also houses a history of edu/class/bosharb/harbor.htm
the flush toilet and information on The University of Rochester’s waterwatch.html
This site offers information on how toilets flush. report on the Boston Harbor
topics including point source Community participation in moni-
cleanup can be found at this site.
pollution control, combined sewer toring water is encouraged by this
Reuse of Reclaimed Wastewater
overflows, onsite wastewater program in order to raise public
Through Irrigation for Ohio NSF International
disposal, and underground storage awareness of the natural environ-
tanks. ment and demonstrate wise use of
http://www.ag.ohio-state. Recent press releases and an online natural resources. Viewers can find
edu/~ohioline/cdrom/ohio newsletter can be found at this site, information regarding participation
line/b860/index.htm as well as information on certification and how to start a watchgroup.
California State University Offers
Operator Training Programs NRRI Report Studies Water Reuse
A 146-page report studying the The economics of reuse is also a
California State University (CSU) facilities, and how to solve treat- reclamation of wastewater for factor, but not a primary factor, in
in Sacramento offers home-study ment plant arithmetic problems. It distribution as a non-potable alter- each case study.
courses for operators of all types of also discusses how to operate and native is now available from the
wastewater facilities. maintain racks, screens, sedimen- National Regulatory Research In one case, for instance, the rev-
tation tanks, trickling filters, rotat- Institute (NRRI) at The Ohio State enue generated from the reclaimed
These courses—developed by ing biological contactors, package University. water is less than the cost of pro-
collection system and treatment activated sludge plants, oxidation viding the supply, although the
plant operators—cover the opera- ditches, ponds, and chlorination The report suggests that “in the report authors explain that this
tion and maintenance of wastewa- facilities. This 529-page manual near term, water reclamation (for does not mean the project was
ter collection systems, municipal costs $20. municipal systems) may only be uneconomical overall, “but rather
wastewater treatment plants, ad- practical in areas where water is in it serves as an example where the
vanced waste treatment, industrial Operation of Wastewater Treat- short supply,” according to an benefits that cannot be captured
waste treatment, treatment of metal ment Plants, Volume II, covers NRRI statement. It adds that in- through selling the reclaimed water
waste streams, and pretreatment activated sludge, sludge digestion, creasing demand for water will are sufficient to overcome the cost
facility inspection. solids handling, effluent disposal, expand the areas where reuse is shortfall of the revenue generating
plant safety and good housekeep- practical. potential of the supply.”
CSU developed its training pro- ing, maintenance, laboratory pro-
grams in cooperation with the cedures, uses of computers for The report was prepared by John The report is geared toward public
California Water Environment plant operation and maintenance, Borrows, P.E., NRRI senior utility commission officials, who
Association for the U.S. Environ- analysis and presentation of data, research specialist, and Todd could require local systems to
mental Protection Agency to help and records and report writing. Simpson, NRRI research reclaim wastewater or at least
operators acquire the skills neces- This 754-page manual costs $25. assistant. study the possibility.
sary to effectively do their jobs and
to pass certification exams. Two of To order either of these manuals, Wastewater recycling case studies To order the report, Water Reuse:
the manuals offered by CSU are or for more information about from California, Florida, and Considerations for Commissioners
Operation of Wastewater Treat- other CSU training programs, Texas are included in the report. (NRRI 97-15), contact NRRI at
ment Plants, Volumes I and II. contact Kenneth Kerri, Office of In each case study, limited raw (614) 292-9404. The cost is
Water Programs, CSU–Sacra- water supplies are important con- $33.60.
Operation of Wastewater Treat- mento, 6000 J Street, Sacramento, siderations.
ment Plants, Volume I, contains CA 95819-6025; call (916) 278-
information on the responsibilities 6142; or send e-mail to
of a treatment plant operator, why email@example.com.
wastes must be treated, treatment
SMALL FLOWS-Fall 1997; Vol.11, No. 4 17
Joining Forces To Meet Small Community Wastewater Treatment Needs
by Jeremy Canody However, mutual aid networks will “Ultimately, we decided to share environmental specialist with the
NSFC Staff Writer not work for all small systems. In the personnel workload to create Rural Community Assistance
some cases, geographical, political, better travel efficiency,” Price said, Corporation (RCAC). Small waste-
Managing a small wastewater and financial factors can preclude adding that since the county began water systems will want to include
treatment facility is becoming small communities from working the workload sharing three years elected officials, management
increasingly difficult as environ- together. If one system is deemed a ago, his department has reduced personnel, health officials, and
mental regulations demand more financial burden by the other sys- travel time by 100 working days a plant operators in all stages of the
management and technical exper- tems, the other sytems may not year and increased onsite effi- development process.
tise and greater expenditures for want to take on the responsibility ciency by 10 percent.
facilities and monitoring. of working with a failing system. How might a wastewater system
In other cases, communities are Additionally, Price said with a decide whether it should work with
Failing to meet environmental geographically isolated and may more efficiently run public works other communities?
regulations poses both legal and find it impossible to department they
health risks that smaller systems work with other have been able to Working alone may be an option if
simply cannot afford to bear. Some systems—a com- In most cases, make some long a system can provide quality ser-
smaller systems find it difficult to mon problem in overdue capital vice to the community without
the systems within
afford the equipment or qualified some western improvements to increasing costs to customers.
personnel to monitor adequately states. a mutual aid their county facili- When a more complicated system
for these risks. They also may face network share ties, particularly at or facility is needed but a commu-
failing or outdated facilities. For the most part, the wastewater nity cannot afford it, that commu-
small systems that similar qualities plants. nity should consider cooperating
In response, many small communi- are in fair operating such as size, with others for assistance.
ties are exploring multi-municipal condition but could By obtaining vari-
consolidation, privatization, and use additional sup-
financial health, ous federal, state, Steps To Get Started
public-private partnerships. Many port find mutual aid and and local grants and Richardson explained that there are
are finding that sharing or consoli- networking to be technology use. loans, the county several steps a small system can
dating municipal functions helps beneficial. has made several take before deciding what mutual
them lower costs, comply with major treatment aid option to consider, or to deter-
environmental regulations, and The Case of plant upgrades, mine if consolidating with other
improve customer service. Mariposa County including rehabili- systems is a viable option.
Rural Mariposa County, Califor- tating or replacing sewerage pipes,
For a small wastewater system nia, provides one example of how reservoir liners, lift stations, and In order for a community to deter-
struggling to make ends meet, small communities can work to- collection systems. Automated mine a need for a mutual aid net-
consolidating some or all of its gether to create a more efficiently programmable logic controllers work, according to Richardson, all
operation and maintenance (O&M) run public works department. and system alarms also have been interested stakeholders will want to:
services with other communities installed at three of the treatment • assemble team members,
through a “mutual aid agreement” The county’s public works depart- facilities. Plans call for complete • conduct a needs assessment,
can be beneficial. By joining to- ment consolidated personnel from rehabilitation of all four of the • determine a willingness to
gether, they can achieve greater three independently operated county’s wastewater treatment solve local wastewater
economies of scale, reduce unit maintenance divisions to share the plants by 2000. problems, and
prices of their purchases, and pro- workload among four maintenance • survey available resources
vide a better customer service areas. Although the maintenance Price said creating this type of before putting a plan into action.
while keeping rates under control. areas of Mariposa Pines Sewer, working relationship among the
Yosemite West Subdivision, Don maintenance divisions and other Once systems determine a need for
Using Mutual Aid Networks Pedro Sewer, and Coulterville county departments has accom- a mutual aid network, they should
Mutual aid, or municipal consoli- Service Area now share personnel plished many years’ worth of capi- identify a leader. This person
dation, agreements involve two or to maintain their airports, landfill, tal improvements in just three should be willing to devote a lot of
more communities sharing utility sewer and water systems, parks, years. time to the consolidation effort and
resources, personnel, facilities, and and other county-owned facilities, follow the process through every
services while maintaining their they still maintain their individual Developing a Network phase of implementation.
individual identities. identities. The creation of a wastewater mu-
tual aid network tends to be more The communities involved will
For example, a group of small According to Cliff Price, facilities complex than simply contracting then need to identify and recruit
systems in the same county could maintenance manager for the Mari- with a private firm to take over key personnel and support to help
save money by hiring a full-time posa County Public Works Depart- operation and maintenance ser- sell the idea of a mutual aid net-
certified operator to serve the en- ment, prior to the county’s assign- vices because it requires a coop- work to the participating commu-
tire group instead of each employ- ing personnel to all four districts, erative agreement among two or nities. Richardson said it is helpful
ing its own operator. the workload responsibilities were more systems. to include county health officials,
distributed inefficiently among the as well as state and regulatory
Hundreds of small communities individual areas. Small wastewater system owners personnel, as information re-
across the country are finding or operators may fear delegating sources.
various consolidation efforts not “We initially took a dedicated crew responsibility to another system or
only to be financially beneficial in each division and consolidated the new organization that they cannot Systems considering a mutual aid
but also helpful for training per- three divisions into one. We also completely control. network will want to talk with
sonnel and sharing resources and combined our public works re- other communities that have
information. In most cases, the sources from engineering, the physi- When a group of systems is devel- formed successful networks of
systems within a mutual aid net- cal plant, our road crew, and facili- oping a mutual aid network, the their own to see how they operate
work share similar qualities such ties maintenance to work together, effort must involve all interested and maintain their systems.
as size, financial health, and tech- resulting in fewer breakdowns, stakeholders from the beginning in
nology use. decreased road time, and less emer- order to benefit everyone, accord- Continued on next page
gency response,” Price said. ing to Mark Richardson, senior
18 SMALL FLOWS-Fall 1997; Vol.11, No. 4
Continued from previous page ongoing or as needed. Small com- council of elected
munity wastewater systems can officials” board. In Strength in Numbers
Once external contacts have been informally agree to share storage this organization,
made, a first meeting should be facilities, sludge storage, billing elected officials
By working together, small communities can cut
scheduled to discuss preliminary equipment, and personnel for provide a forum
expenses for their wastewater treatment efforts,
ideas and concepts. Also, the O&M functions. The relationship for identifying
while improving efficiency.
group will want to select a neutral among communities can later common wastewa-
facilitator to run meetings and to develop into a more formal agree- ter treatment prob- • Supplies can be purchased in bulk.
keep everyone informed. ment if necessary. lems in a given • Grants and loans may be more accessible.
area. • Customer service can be improved without
When the first meeting is held, the When a wastewater system re- increasing costs.
facilitator should explain to attend- quires more specialized support The council can
ees what a mutual aid network is, than informal cooperation can encourage com-
how it works, and how it can ben- provide, it can form a “contractual mon action resolutions to solve Several other options of structural
efit a small wastewater system. service agreement” with other regional problems and therefore consolidation efforts are similar to
Richardson mentioned that it helps systems or businesses. This type of eliminate duplication in nearby the regulatory, financial, and po-
to record the minutes of the meet- contract requires a legal document communities. Participating com- litical characteristics of an associa-
ing and distribute them to every- among systems or between a sys- munities will be under no legal tion. One option involves creating
one who was invited. tem and private company to pro- obligation to the board’s recom- a “local special-purpose district”
vide specific services that may not mendations, and each system can where—much like an associa-
A second meeting will be necessary be feasible for a single small system. maintain its autonomy. tion—a wastewater authority is
to determine if those attending are created from several small systems
in favor of establishing a mutual aid Contractual services may include Structural Options to perform specific services.
network. If there is interest, O&M, emergency and repair ser- Structural consolidation efforts
Richardson said, the group must: vices, pumping services, and bill- require a more permanent commit- Other options include the “annex-
• define the scope and future ing and collection. ment from wastewater systems ation” of an area, which occurs
strategy of their efforts; because they generally result in the when a wastewater system extends
• discuss topics to be covered in When small community wastewa- creation of a new entity or a shift its services to neighboring commu-
future meetings; and ter systems face challenges greater in policy control among participat- nities, and “region-wide wastewa-
• set a time, place, and agenda for than each can face on its own, they ing systems. ter districts,” which are similar to
those meetings. may want to consider forming a associations or local districts, but
“joint service agency.” This option These options can be beneficial to on a much larger scale and with a
The group should meet for a third allows the formation of a new a group of small systems when a larger range of services provided.
time to form an official organization. entity, but with each system oper- unit needs to be enlarged or when
The group will want to select a name ating independently. a new entity must be created from These nonstructural and structural
and elect officers at that time. several small systems to meet the mutual aid options are listed here
For example, neigh- demands of chang- in order of increasing complexity.
To cooperate with other communi- boring communities ing environmental As the complexity of the entity
ties, Richardson recommended that might find that their regulations. increases, so does its ability to
treatment plants are
Many communities solve wastewater treatment prob-
small communities decide during
the first several meetings the role not capable of may already be The simplest form lems. However, with an increase in
each community will have, how meeting a new involved in this type of a structural con- entity complexity, implementation
conflict among the communities regulatory require- solidation effort is also becomes more difficult.
will be resolved, and how coopera- ment. They could of nonstructural an “association.”
tive operations or a facility will be realize that a shared cooperation without This usually in- Therefore, small wastewater
paid for. new facility could volves several small systems must consider whether the
meet their needs. even realizing it. systems that con- mutual aid option they choose is
Richardson said deciding which By forming a joint When two or more solidate policy- viable when considering the
mutual aid option will best benefit service agency, communities get making efforts to increasing complexity of legal,
a group of small systems can these communities form an association political, and administrative
sometimes be the most challenging equally share opera- together to buy of representatives requirements of each option.
issue the group faces. He explained tion, funding, main- in bulk, that’s an from each system.
that there is a variety of nonstruc- tenance, and con- Together, these For more information on mutual
tural and structural mutual aid struction decisions. example of an systems can con- aid networks, contact Richardson
options available to small waste- informal cooperation. solidate their ser- at (916) 447-9832, or contact
water systems. Forming a joint vice areas to be Kathy Stanley with the Rural Com-
service agency can governed by one munity Assistance Program at
Nonstructural Options be more difficult entity. (703) 771-8636.
The simplest form of communities than other cooperative efforts.
working together is referred to as Administrative decisions are usu- A benefit of an association is that Also, the Summer 1997 issue of the
“informal cooperation.” Many ally made by a joint governing it can improve the likelihood of National Drinking Water Clear-
communities may already be in- body or representatives from each receiving federal financing, such inghouse’s (NDWC) Water Sense
volved in this type of nonstructural system, and legal counsel should as loans or grants. The revenues newsletter focuses primarily on
cooperation without even realizing be present. Depending on local and earned by the association can be system privatization. For a free
it. When two or more communities state laws, it may be necessary to directed to help the group’s strug- subscription, call NDWC at (800)
go together to buy supplies in bulk obtain governmental approval at gling systems with maintenance 624-8301.
to save money, that’s an example some point, Richardson said. and improvement efforts as well as
of an informal cooperation. any debt repayment. Small systems
Another nonstructural mutual aid can find strength in numbers with
This option is based on voluntary option small communities may this mutual aid effort.
cooperative decisions and can be want to consider is a “regional
SMALL FLOWS-Fall 1997; Vol.11, No. 4 19
Alternative Septic System Test Center Planned
A new Alternative Septic System Regionally, the test center is work-
Test Center that will provide inde- Massachusetts Boston ing closely with the University of
pendent testing of alternative and Rhode Island’s Onsite Wastewater
innovative onsite treatment tech- Training Center and the New En-
nologies for use in Massachusetts gland Interstate Water Pollution
is being constructed this fall. Control Commission’s (NEIWPCC)
ETI Onsite Wastewater Technol-
Operated by the Buzzards Bay ogy Data Review project to speed
National Estuary Program, a unit Test Center the approval and introduction of
of the Massachusetts Office of alternative technologies in the New
Coastal Zone Management (MA New Bedford England region.
CZM), the new test center is ay
funded for two years by a
Buzza The center is a cooperative endeavor
$459,000 U.S. Environmental N of the Buzzards Bay National
Protection Agency (EPA) Environ- W
Estuary Program, the Massachu-
mental Technologies Initiative setts Department of Environmental
(ETI) grant and other matching Protection (DEP), and the Barnstable
funds. County Department of Health and
the Environment. Additional fund-
“The test center’s purpose is to ing support is being provided by
An Alternative Septic System Test Center is under construction at
evaluate and promote innovative ComElectric.
Marion, Massachusetts. The center will help vendors of innovative
septic systems in Massachusetts,”
technologies accelerate state regulatory approval.
said Tony Millham, Ph.D., project Representatives from the Massa-
manager for the test center. replicates of each and three identi- Costa added. “This new test center chusetts DEP, U.S. EPA, U.S.
cal conventional septic systems will address these and other needs Department of Defense, MA CZM,
The center will provide vendors of used as a benchmark for the tested for information on the performance Barnstable County Department of
innovative technologies with the technologies. of the many new technologies Health and the Environment,
opportunity to accelerate Massa- coming down the road.” NEIWPCC, the University of
chusetts regulatory The center is located at the Massa- Rhode Island, the Town of Sand-
approvals. It also will chusetts Military Reservation Costa said the test center will be an wich, the Town of Falmouth, and
“Conventional reduce the substantial cost (MMR) in Cape Cod in an area information clearinghouse on the Coalition for Buzzards Bay
septic systems of meeting the monitoring adjoining the military base’s new residential wastewater disposal will oversee the center’s operation.
requirements for permitted wastewater treatment plant. The systems and that Massachusetts is
were designed to use of onsite systems in Millham will operate the facility in
center will use sewage from the exploring how the test center also
remove pathogens, Massachusetts and other base’s residential housing. may meet the needs of other New conjunction with George Heufelder,
but do not do a New England states. England states. environmental program manager
Effectiveness To Be Measured for the Barnstable County Health
good job at Because most of the costs The test center will direct equal
removing nutrients.” of monitoring the septic amounts of wastewater to each
systems will be carried by technology. Volumes of influent
Joe Costa, the test center, consider- flow into the plant and effluent
Buzzards Bay able financial incentive is flow returned to the MMR sewer
being offered to encour- will be monitored, and the facility
age businesses to partici- is being designed to prevent any
executive director pate in the program, said releases of raw or untreated sew-
Millham. Current plans age to groundwater, said Millham.
are to send out vendor
applications soon and to select Effluent from each technology will
vendors by the time construction flow to one-quarter size underlined
of the test center is completed, he leach trenches where pathogen
added. removal and biochemical param-
eters below the leach trench will be
As an ETI project, the test center’s measured. The test center also will
mission is to speed the introduc- monitor and record the systems’
tion and approval of alternative operation and maintenance and Buzzards Bay
and innovative onsite wastewater project these costs over the life of
treatment technologies in Massa- the systems. Several Public Benefits Department. Barnstable County and
chusetts and to reduce the financial Beyond the benefits to technology Brian Howes, Ph.D., of the Univer-
burden that the approval process “Conventional septic systems were vendors, the test center will benefit sity of Massachusetts at Dartmouth,
entails. designed to remove pathogens, but the public in several ways, accord- will jointly investigate pollutant
do not do a good job at removing ing to Millham. removal efficiencies of innovative
To accomplish this, the test center nutrients,” said Joe Costa, Ph.D., septic system technologies.
will provide independent, rigorous executive director of the Buzzards “First, by speeding approvals of
testing programs to measure the Bay Project. “On Cape Cod, and in new technologies, there should be For more information about the
performance of alternative tech- many coastal communities, there is an increase in the variety of sys- Alternative Septic System Test
nologies—conducted under con- considerable interest in seeing tems available to the public. Sec- Center, write to Millham at the
trolled conditions—for a two-year increased use of nitrogen removal ond, the results of testing each Buzzards Bay Project, 2 Spring St.,
testing period. systems. technology will be released as Marion, MA 02738; or call
public documents that will be (508) 748-3600; or fax
The facility will have the capacity “In other parts of the state, high available to homeowners and (508) 748-3962.
to test 21 systems—six residential groundwater levels are the primary boards of health,” he said.
treatment technologies with three concern of Boards of Health,”
20 SMALL FLOWS-Fall 1997; Vol.11, No. 4
Effort Protects Buzzards Bay Watershed
Established in 1985 as one of the “Research efforts also have at- milk Bay, a proto-
first National Estuary Programs, tempted to determine causes and type research effort
the Buzzards Bay Project in Mas- sources of coastal pollution as well was set up to docu-
sachusetts works to protect and as processes that affect the fate of ment the sources and
restore water quality in Buzzards pollutants in the bay,” said Costa. effects of these pol-
Bay and its surrounding 432- lutants.
square-mile watershed. Major research findings included:
• Embayments around Buzzards Based on these find
Buzzards Bay is a semi-enclosed Bay are experiencing declining ings, the Buzzards Bay
embayment along the southeastern water quality because of increas- project completed the Buzzards
coast of Massachusetts. The bay is ing fecal coliform contamination. Bay Comprehensive Conservation
28 miles long, has a mean width of Sources of these indicator organ- and Management Plan (CCMP) in mental data necessary to monitor
9 miles, covers 235 square miles, isms and pathogens include 1991, which outlines research Buzzards Bay and to help citizens
and has a mean depth of approxi- stormwater discharges, animal conclusions and management become involved with protecting
mately 36 feet. Buzzards Bay is wastes, failing or old septic strategies for the bay. this vital resource.
one of 17 designated estuaries systems, and boat wastes.
being studied in the U.S. “The Buzzards Bay Project is now The Buzzards Bay Project also is
• Increased development within actively working with Buzzards working with businesses and in-
More than 235,000 people live in the bay’s recharge area is causing Bay municipalities and state and dustry to make Buzzards Bay a
the basin surrounding Buzzards excess nitrogen to reach Buzzards federal agencies to implement the cleaner place for generations to
Bay and many more vacation Bay. The major sources are CCMP,” Costa said. “Because come, according to Costa.
along its shores. sewage disposal and lawn and local management efforts are es-
agricultural fertilizer. sential to the successful long-term The project is administered and
“Wastewater from approximately protection of Buzzards Bay re- funded by the Massachusetts Ex-
135,000 people is discharged into • Large amounts of polychlori- sources, the project has awarded ecutive Office of Environmental
Buzzards Bay by sewage treatment nated biphenyls (PCBs) were more than $2 million over the past Affairs through its Coastal Zone
plants, and the remaining 100,000 discharged into New Bedford six years to bay municipalities to Management Office and the EPA.
people use onsite septic systems or Harbor by sewage and industrial encourage and support local The project is directed by the Buz-
land-based treatment systems to outfalls between 1940 and 1970. coastal protection efforts.” zards Bay Steering Committee and
dispose of their wastewater,” said PCBs have persisted in harbor a panel of federal, state, regional,
Joe Costa, Ph.D., executive direc- sediments. The cleanup in the The project also continues to work municipal, and citizen representa-
tor of the Buzzards Bay Project. harbor is a U.S. Environmental with the scientific community and tives.
Protection Agency (EPA) regulatory agencies to identify
Between 1985 and 1988 the Superfund project. environmental degradation and For more information about the
project awarded $2 million to monitor the effectiveness of man- Buzzards Bay Project, write to 2
research groups to assess and char- • The effects of bacterial contami- agement actions. For four years the Spring St., Marion, MA 02738;
acterize existing conditions in the nation and nitrogen loading in Buzzards Bay Project has guided a call (508) 748-3600; or fax (508)
bay, including the status of water Buzzards Bay are localized near bay-wide citizen monitoring pro- 748-3962.
quality, sediments, and living shore, particularly in poorly gram to help gather the environ-
resources. flushed embayments. In Butter
Software Package Helps Towns Track Septic Systems
A new software package called button, relevant data on any lot in According to Costa, other states SepTrack Version 1E.0 requires
“SepTrack” is helping towns in the the municipality.” also are interested in setting up three disks and does not require
Buzzards Bay watershed in Massa- similar programs and are using FoxPro. (Please note that Version
chusetts track septic system per- SepTrack also helps towns SepTrack as a model. 1E.0 cannot run certain advanced
mits and inspection and mainte- respond more quickly to informa- features available in Version 1.0).
nance information. tion requests, permit applications, SepTrack runs under Microsoft Both versions of SepTrack
and new inspection and mainte- FoxPro for Windows (Version require Windows.
The Buzzards Bay Project National nance reporting requirements iden- 2.6). “The simplicity of the FoxPro
Estuary Program provided the tified in the new Massachusetts Windows environment, as well as Requests for a free copy of
software package and computers to Title 5 code, said Costa. multiple screen click-on menu SepTrack should be made in writ-
municipal boards of health in an features, enables users with even ing to the Buzzards Bay Project, 2
effort to better protect public “Word about the success of modest computer experience to Spring St., Marion, MA 02738.
health and the environment. SepTrack has quickly spread in the store and retrieve data,” said Please specify which version you
past year. We have received 118 Costa. wish to receive, and send the ap-
“We wanted to help towns and requests for the program from propriate number of disks along
cities reduce the amount of time Massachusetts towns, and we Because of recent limited avail- with a self-addressed stamped
they spent filing, retrieving, and know of at least 40 towns that are ability of FoxPro, the Buzzards mailer.
maintaining information so that now actively using it,” he said. Bay Project has made available a
they could spend more time on special compiled stand-alone ver- For more information about
important water quality issues,” Because of the widespread interest sion of SepTrack (Version 1E.0) SepTrack, call the Buzzards Bay
said Joe Costa, Ph.D., executive in the software, the Buzzards Bay that can run in Windows without Project at (508) 748-3600, or fax
director of the Buzzards Bay Project is making the software the installation of FoxPro. (508) 748-3962.
Projects. “We felt that a software available to all interested Massa-
program was needed that could chusetts boards of health at no SepTrack Version 1.0 requires one
provide, at a click of a mouse cost. disk and runs under FoxPro.
SMALL FLOWS-Fall 1997; Vol.11, No. 4 21
F S Calendar of Events
T 2 3
S M 1
5 6 7 8 9 10
13 1 4 15
3 24 If your organization is sponsoring an event that you would like to have promoted in this
11 12 22 2
0 21 calendar, please send information to the Small Flows editor.
19 2 30
27 28 29
25 26 Event: 42nd Annual Midwest Event: GIS-Based Ground Water Event: Trench and Confined
Groundwater Conference Flow Modeling Using Space Rescue Program
By: U.S. Geological Survey, ArcView By: National Utility
OCTOBER Iowa Department of
logical Survey Bureau,
By: University of Wisconsin–
Milwaukee Center for
Date: November 13–15
Place: Boynton Beach, FL
Event: ITA 1997 AnnualMeeting
University of Iowa Education Phone: (703) 358-9300
By: Water and Wastewater
Department of Geology, Date: October 29–31 Kymberly Shaug
Iowa Groundwater Place: Memphis, TN
Association of North
Association Phone: (414) 227-3173 Event: International Conference
Date: October 22–24 on Advances in Ground
Date: October 17
Place: Coralville, IA Event: Karst Water Environment Water Hydrology–A
Place: Chicago, IL
Phone: (319) 335-1580 Symposium Decade of Progress
Phone: (202) 218-4123
Paul VanDorpe By: Virginia Water Resources By: American Institute of
Research Center Hydrology
Event: What’s GREEN and Date: October 30–31 Date: November 16–19
Event: WEFTEC ’97
WET? An Introduction to Place: Roanoke, VA Place: Tampa, FL
By: Water Environment
Watershed Education Phone: (540) 231-8039 Phone: (612) 484-8169
By: Global Rivers Environ- Tamim Younos, Ph.D. AIHydro@aol.com
Date: October 18–22
mental Education Net-
Place: Chicago, IL
work and Project Water Event: Sixth Annual National
Phone: (800) 666-0206
Education for Teachers Workshop for State Revolv-
Event: American Water
Date: October 24–26
Place: Lyndhurst, NJ
Phone: (313) 761-8142
ing Loan Fund Managers
Council of Infrastructure
33rd Annual Conference Event: IWEX ’97: International
David Schmidt Date: November 16–18
and Symposium Water and Effluent
(Note: This event is also scheduled Place: Atlanta, GA
By: AWRA Treatment Show
for November 7–8 in Mobile, AL.) Phone: (202) 371-9694
Date: October 19–23 By: Turret RAI PLC
Place: Long Beach, CA Date: November 4–6
Event: 1997 National Environ-
Phone: (703) 904-1225 Place: Birmingham, U.K.
mental Career Conference Event: Forum ’97: New Linkages
Phone: 44 1895 454540
By: Environmental in Conservation and
Event: Competition in the Paul Tweedale
Careers Organization Development
Municipal Water and
Date: October 24–25 By: University of Florida
Wastewater Industries Event: Drafting Effective
Place: Boston, MA Date: November 16–21
By: Electric Power Research Construction Contracts
Phone: (617) 426-4375, ext. 2663 Place: Istanbul, Turkey
Institute By: Federal Publications
Phone: (352) 392-6548
Date: October 20–21 Date: November 6–7
Event: Watersheds ’97 firstname.lastname@example.org
Place: San Francisco, CA Place: Washington, DC
By: U.S. Environmental
Phone: (415) 641-8332 Phone: (800) 922-4330
Protection Agency, U.S. Event: Environmental Technology
Janis Prifti (Note: This event is also scheduled
Geological Survey, Expo ETE ’97
for November 13–14 in San
Alaska Oil and Gas By: National Registry of
Event: Wastewater Treatment with Francisco, CA.)
Association, Alaska Environmental
Department of Environ- Professionals, U.S. EPA
By: American Society of Event: Water Quality Technology
mental Conservation, Region 4, EPA Technol-
Civil Engineers Conference
EcoSynergy, HDR Inc., ogy Innovation Office,
Date: October 22–24 By: American Water Works
and the Municipality of and U.S. Army Corps of
Place: Houston, TX Association
Anchorage Engineers Waterway
Phone: (800) 548-2723 Date: November 9–12
Date: October 26–31 Experiment Station
email@example.com Place: Denver, CO
Place: Anchorage, AK Date: November 19–21
Phone: (303) 347-6194
Phone: (907) 474-7800 Place: Atlanta, GA
Event: Sixth Annual Conference Brian Murphy
firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: (770) 279-4388
By: National Onsite Wastewater Event: Seventh Annual Texas
Event: Sustainable Building Event: Joining Forces: Education
Recycling Association Water Law Conference
Northwest Conference and Action for Ground-
Date: October 22–25 By: CLE International
and Trade Show water
Place: College Station, TX Date: November 13–14
By: Public Technology Inc. By: The Groundwater
Phone: (800) 966-2942 Place: Austin, TX
and the City of Seattle Foundation
Pamela Franzen Phone: (303) 377-6600
Date: October 27–29 Date: November 22–24
Place: Seattle, WA Place: Oak Brook, IL
Phone: (206) 842-8995 Phone: (800) 858-4844
22 SMALL FLOWS-Fall 1997; Vol.11, No. 4
Calendar of Events Cameon Named Small Flows Editor
P.J. Cameon, who served as in- Cameon also has extensive news-
terim editor of Small Flows for paper experience, working as a
much of this year, was officially reporter and copy editor for several
DECEMBER JANUARY named editor this summer, accord-
ing to Peter Casey, National Small
Flows Clearinghouse (NSFC)
years after receiving a bachelor of
science degree in journalism. He is
currently pursuing a master’s de-
Event: 1997 Annual Meeting and Event: Ninth Annual On–Site
program coordinator. gree in journalism.
State Leadership Forum Treatment and Disposal
By: Council of State Conference
Before working with Small Flows, Cameon said he plans to continue
Governments By: Auburn University
Cameon had worked as a writer the high quality work of his prede-
Date: December 5–9 Engineering Extension
and editor with the NSFC’s sister cessors by providing useful infor-
Place: Honolulu, HI Service
organization, the National Drink- mation on wastewater-related
Phone: (606) 244-8000 Date: January 21–22
ing Water Clearinghouse. Much of issues relevant to small communi-
Place: Auburn, AL
this work involved writing articles ties and rural areas. Within the
Event: Third Annual Kentucky Phone: (800) 446-0382
for the newsletter Water Sense, next few months, he also plans to
Onsite Wastewater (334) 844-5720
which provides information about include a readership survey in
Association Conference Elaine H. Ridgeway
project funding and financing Small Flows to obtain feedback
By: Kentucky Onsite
alternatives for small drinking concerning the publication’s con-
Wastewater Association Event: Minnesota Onsite Sewage
water and wastewater systems. tent and design.
Date: December 9–11 Treatment Contractors
Place: Louisville, KY Association Convention &
Phone: (502) 778-3624
Matt Byers By:
MOSTCA Health Association Requesting
Event: Operation and Mainte-
Date: January 25–28
Place: St. Cloud, MN Abstracts for Conference
nance of Pumps Phone: (612) 433-4178
Abstracts are being accepted for The deadline for submitting ab-
By: Rutgers University Cook Cyndi Spencer
the Onsite Wastewater Systems stracts (100 word maximum) is
College Office of Con-
(OSWS) Management Program of November 28, 1997. Recommen-
the 1998 National Environmental dations from two professionals in
Health Association (NEHA) An- the environmental field should be
Date: December 10–12
nual Education Conference and submitted with each abstract.
Place: New Brunswick, NJ
Phone: (732) 932-9271
For more information, contact
NEHA is seeking papers that address NEHA at (303) 756-9090, ext. 312.
management, technological ad- Abstracts may be mailed to NEHA,
vances, and regulations for OSWS. Attn: Education Manager, 720 S.
Newsletter Explores Options The NEHA event is scheduled for
Colorado Blvd., Suite 970S, Den-
ver, CO 80246.
System Privatization Can Be an June 27–July 1, 1998, in Las
Emotions can run high when a tracting with a company to operate
Video Outlines Innovative
community considers “public-
private partnerships” or
a system, to what is sometimes
called ‘full privatization,’ where a
Techniques for Development
“privatization” of its water or private company actually owns and A new video that highlights tech- ment rights, rural clustering, and
wastewater systems. operates the facility,” according to niques used to prevent sprawl traditional neighborhood develop-
the newsletter. patterns of development is avail- ment. The techniques are clearly
This doesn’t need to be the case. able from the Chesapeake Bay explained with graphics and foot-
Even though these concepts can be The publication discusses reasons Local Government Advisory Com- age and are supported by inter-
confusing, particularly to local to privatize, common obstacles, mittee. views with local government offi-
officials, a little education can go a and considerations when contract- cials, developers, and citizens.
long way toward clarifying ing for services or selling systems Beyond Sprawl: Towards Sustain-
privatization options. to private buyers. It also covers the able Patterns of Growth for the Municipal officials, planners,
role of state regulators and pro- 21st Century leads viewers citizens groups, and other decision
The Summer 1997 issue of Water vides a brief glossary and listing of throughout the Chesapeake Bay makers can use the video to stimu-
Sense, published by the National resources for additional information. watershed to visit hands-on ex- late discussions on growth issues,
Drinking Water Clearinghouse amples of innovative techniques generate ideas for their jurisdic-
(NDWC), addresses this need for A partnership with the private that help to protect natural re- tions, and initiate new planning
information. Throughout this theme sector may not work for everyone, sources, preserve farmland, and techniques to preserve their com-
issue, the newsletter explains how but it provides another tool that improve economic vitality while munities’ character.
small communities might involve small communities can explore protecting the bay and its 64,000
the private sector in providing when seeking the best solution for square-mile watershed. To borrow a copy of the video,
drinking water or wastewater ser- their situation. write to the Chesapeake Bay
vices. The 15-minute video details six Local Advisory Committee, 416
To obtain a free copy of this issue, techniques to control development: Goldsborough St., Easton, MD
“Private sector involvement can call the NDWC at (800) 624-8301, urban growth boundaries, infill 21601, or call (800) 446-5422.
cover a wide range of options, and request Item #WSENSE11. development, transit-oriented
from simply contracting out engi- The newsletter also may be down- development, transfer of develop-
neering or billing services, to con- loaded from the NDWC’s Web site,
SMALL FLOWS-Fall 1997; Vol.11, No. 4 23
Volume 11, Number 4, Fall 1997
Also in this issue
Small Community’s Call to NSFC Results
1 in Big Savings
Alternative Sewers: Cost-effective
1 Option for Many Small Communities
Alternative Septic System Test 5 Improving the Public’s Perception
Center Planned in Massachusetts 8 Washington State Approves
Sequencing Batch Process
see page 20 Joining Forces To Meet Small Community
18 Wastewater Treatment Needs
NA National Small Flows Clearinghouse
West Virginia University
P.O. Box 6064
EA Morgantown, WV 26506-6064
R IN GHOU PAID
ADDRESS SERVICE REQUESTED PERMIT NO. 34
24 SMALL FLOWS-Fall 1997; Vol.11, No. 4