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EPA Will Work With County on Nitrogen Sensors for Septic Systems

EPA Announces Collaborative Innovative Research in Mass. and New York to Address State Environmental Issues


(Boston)- Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced research projects addressing priority environmental and human health problems in 14 states through partnerships between EPA’s research office, regional offices, and states. One of these projects is the “Advanced Septic System Nitrogen Sensor Challenge.”

EPA will work with the New York State Department of Health; the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, The Nature Conservancy; Barnstable County, Mass.; and Suffolk County, N.Y. on a challenge for the best performing nitrogen sensor package to be installed in advanced septic systems in 2019. The team will conduct laboratory and field testing and evaluate the effectiveness of new, low-cost sensor technologies to detect and measure nitrogen in the effluent of advanced septic or onsite wastewater treatment systems designed to remove excess nitrogen pollution from wastewater.

“EPA encourages the use of innovative scientific approaches to help solve important environmental problems,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “By working with our state partners and engaging the public we can foster creative solutions to these challenges.”

The research announced today is designed to address pressing environmental issues faced by the states. EPA is uniquely equipped to provide scientific expertise to help tackle these problems. The selected projects focus on non-point source nitrogen pollution, volatile organic compound emission detection, harmful algal blooms, roadway air pollution near schools, and other environmental and human health issues across the country. The projects will employ innovative approaches including citizen science, crowdsourcing, a challenge competition, and advanced monitoring technologies.

Nitrogen discharges from conventional residential septic systems can cause critical water quality problems, such as toxic algal blooms that threaten public health. Advanced onsite technologies that can remove 50% or more nitrogen from residential wastewater are now available and in use. There is, however, no commercially available nitrogen sensor that can work in conjunction with advanced nitrogen removal septic systems. This project involves the development of prototype nitrogen sensors that will be tested and among those that are successful, deployed in 200 residential advanced septic systems. Real-time monitoring of the performance of nitrogen removal systems will demonstrate the long term effectiveness of advanced onsite wastewater treatment technology and help accelerate their widespread deployment which will reduce nitrogen discharged to the aquatic environment.

Learn more about this and the other projects here: