Innovation/Alternative Onsite Wastewater System Developments

Taking a glance at the recent developments in the “Innovative/Alternative” approvals of various onsite wastewater system components under 310 CMR 15.280 over the past few years reveals an interesting pattern.  We will dig deep into the two issued last year and also touch on approvals issued over the three prior years as well:

**2023: A Pair of Modifications**
In the year 2023, the regulatory landscape witnessed the issuance of two noteworthy modified approvals. Firstly, SeptiTech/Bio-Microbics of Maine, Inc. secured a modified General Use certification for several SeptiTech models handling flows of up to 2,000 gallons per day.  This replaces an earlier General Use approval issued in 2018.

Secondly, SeptiTech/Bio-Microbics of Maine, Inc. obtained a modified Provision Use approval/renewal for the same SeptiTech models, which is set to expire in January 2028.  This replaces an approval first issued in 2012 and modified several times in the interim.

These two approvals are for the same products, and are worthy of greater assessment. 

The approved SeptiTech models are STAAR 0.5 (M400), 0.75 (M550N, 1.0 (M750N), 1.2 (M1200N), 1.5 (M1500N), 3.0 (M2500N) and 4.5 (M300N).  STAAR stands for Smart Trickling Anaerobic/Aerobic Recirculation (a recirculating biological trickling filter) and are considered a Secondary Treatment Unit by MassDEP.  Solid-liquid separation occurs in the septic tank, while treatment occurs in the trickling filter media as wastewater passes through.  The STAAR model number describes the maximum flow that a system would be designed for using that component.  For example a STAAR 1.0 is intended for flows under 1,000 GPD. 

The system consists of an unsaturated media and trickling filter technology to biologically treat wastewater.  Effluent is sprayed onto a media (bags filled with beads) where it filters down through the beads and as it does microbes break down the organic material.  The components are installed below-grade in plastic, concrete, or fiberglass tanks.  The system is equipped with a controller which regulates the amount of oxygen entering the system and also uses a small pump used for recirculation.  The percolate from the filtering process drains into the treatment reservoir for recirculation and discharge. Nitrification occurs as the wastewater trickles over the media, while denitrification occurs in the septic tank due to return of part of the percolate from the treatment reservoir to the septic tank inlet.  An effluent filter is needed in the septic tank outlet tee, and a 2” air line plus electrical conduit are provided to the treatment tank. 

The General Use approval is for use in nitrogen sensitive areas with loading allowed up to 660 gallons per day per acre if the effluent is less than 19 mg/L total nitrogen and 550 gallons per day per acre if the effluent is less than 25 mg/L total nitrogen.  The approval allows for the use of the System on facilities for nitrogen reduction in a DEP designated nitrogen sensitive or limited area. Use is limited to flows up to 2,000 GPD and requires documentation including deed notice, owner acknowledgement, special certifications, and operation and maintenance.  Effluent is to be sampled quarterly for the first year and then semi-annually thereafter with sampling and O & M reports provided to the local health department annually.

The Provisional Use approval allows 50 systems to be installed within 3 years in order to determine if the treatment can consistently meet 19 and 25 mg/L total nitrogen for systems under 2,000 gallons per day, and consistently meet 25 mg/L for projects with flows between 2,000 and 10,000 gpd.  Operation and maintenance needs to be performed by a Grade IV wastewater treatment plant operator who is also a System Inspector.  Documentation is needed including a deed notice, owner acknowledgement, special certifications, and operation and maintenance.  The site needs to be demonstrated to meet the new construction standards for a conventional system under Title 5 before use of the SeptiTech system under this approval.

**2022: A Year of Modifications**
The preceding year, 2022, saw a more pronounced activity with the issuance of three modified General Use approvals and four modified Remedial Use approvals. Presby Environmental clinched a modified General Use certification for the Enviro-Septic Wastewater Treatment System, the Advanced Presby Enviro-Septic, and the Advanced Enviro-Septic models. Additionally, Presby Environmental secured three modified Remedial Use Approvals for specific models, while Eljen Corporation obtained one for the Eljen GSF System.

**2021: Piloting Approvals Take the Stage**
In 2021, the spotlight shifted to Piloting approvals, totaling three. NORWECO, Inc. received two Piloting approvals for the NORWECO Phos-4-Fade Phosphorus Removal and the NORWECO Subsurface Disposal system. Meanwhile, Bio-Microbics, Inc. secured a Piloting approval renewal for various models of BioBarrier MBR and HSMBR, valid until August 2026.

**2020: Provisional Use Approvals in Focus**
The year 2020 marked the issuance of three Provisional Use approvals. Fuji, Clean USA, LLC obtained one for three models of the Fuji, Clean USA, set to expire in February 2025. Additionally, Lombardo Associates and KleanTu LLC secured renewals for Provisional Use approvals concerning the Nitrex Filter and two models of the NitROE Waste-Water Treatment System, respectively, both with expiration dates in 2025.

**Looking Ahead**
More information on new approvals will be provided in future YOWA Newsletters. For detailed insights into any of the mentioned approvals, readers are encouraged to explore the MassDEP’s website at

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Dan Ottenheimer

Dan Ottenheimer is the President of Mill River Consulting and a former President and current Board Member of YOWA.

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