Water: Coastal Zone Act Reauthorization Amendments
A. New Onsite Disposal Systems Management Measures
- Ensure that new Onsite Disposal Systems (OSDS) are located, designed, installed, operated, inspected, and maintained to prevent the discharge of pollutants to the surface of the ground and to the extent practicable reduce the discharge of pollutants into ground waters that are closely hydrologically connected to surface waters. Where necessary to meet these objectives: (a) discourage the installation of garbage disposals to reduce hydraulic and nutrient loadings; and (b) where low-volume plumbing fixtures have not been installed in new developments or redevelopments, reduce total hydraulic loadings to the OSDS by 25 percent. Implement OSDS inspection schedules for preconstruction, construction, and postconstruction.
- Direct placement of OSDS away from unsuitable areas. Where OSDS placement in unsuitable areas is not practicable, ensure that the OSDS is designed or sited at a density so as not to adversely affect surface waters or ground water that is closely hydrologically connected to surface water. Unsuitable areas include, but are not limited to, areas with poorly or excessively drained soils; areas with shallow water tables or areas with high seasonal water tables; areas overlaying fractured bedrock that drain directly to ground water; areas within floodplains; or areas where nutrient and/or pathogen concentrations in the effluent cannot be sufficiently treated or reduced before the effluent reaches sensitive waterbodies;
- Establish protective setbacks from surface waters, wetlands, and floodplains for conventional as well as alternative OSDS. The lateral setbacks should be based on soil type, slope, hydrologic factors, and type of OSDS. Where uniform protective setbacks cannot be achieved, site development with OSDS so as not to adversely affect waterbodies and/or contribute to a public health nuisance;
- Establish protective separation distances between OSDS system components and groundwater which is closely hydrologically connected to surface waters. The separation distances should be based on soil type, distance to ground water, hydrologic factors, and type of OSDS;
- Where conditions indicate that nitrogen-limited surface waters may be adversely affected by excess nitrogen loadings from ground water, require the installation of OSDS that reduce total nitrogen loadings by 50 percent to ground water that is closely hydrologically connected to surface water.
This management measure is intended to be applied by States to all new OSDS including package plants and small-scale or regional treatment facilities not covered by NPDES regulations in order to manage the siting, design, installation, and operation and maintenance of all such OSDS. Under the Coastal Zone Act Reauthorization Amendments of 1990, States are subject to a number of requirements as they develop coastal NPS programs in conformity with this management measure and will have flexibility in doing so. The application of management measure by States is described more fully in Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Control Program: Program Development and Approval Guidance, published jointly by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of the U.S. Department of Commerce.
The purpose of this management measure is to protect the 6217 management area from pollutants discharged by OSDS. The measure requires that OSDS be sited, designed, and installed so that impacts to waterbodies will be reduced, to the extent practicable. Factors such as soil type, soil depth, depth to water table, rate of sea level rise, and topography must be considered in siting and installing conventional OSDS.
The objective of the management measure is to prevent the installation of conventional OSDS in areas where soil absorption systems will not provide adequate treatment of effluents containing solids, phosphorus, pathogens, nitrogen, and nonconventional pollutants prior to entry into surface waters and ground water (e.g., highly permeable soils, areas with shallow water tables or confining layers, or poorly drained soils). In addition to soil criteria, setbacks, separation distances, and management and maintenance requirements need to be established to fulfill the requirements of this management measure. Guidance on design factors to consider in the installation of OSDS is available in EPA's Design Manual for Onsite Wastewater Treatment and Disposal Systems (1980), currently under revision. This measure also requires that in areas experiencing pollution problems due to OSDS-generated nitrogen loadings, OSDS designs should employ denitrification systems or some other nitrogen removal process that reduces total nitrogen loadings by at least 50 percent. Additionally, hydraulic loadings to OSDS can be reduced by up to 25 percent by installing low-volume plumbing fixtures and enforcing water conservation measures. Garbage disposals are to be discouraged in all new development or redevelopment where conventional OSDS are employed as another means of reducing overloading and ensure proper operation of the OSDS. Regularly scheduled maintenance and pumpout of OSDS will prolong the life of the system and prevent degradation of surface waters.
States need not conduct new monitoring programs or collect new monitoring data to determine whether ground water is closely hydrologically connected to surface water, nor are States expected to determine exactly where the resulting water quality problems are significant. Rather, States are encouraged to make reasonable determinations based upon existing information and data sources.
3. Management Measure Selection
This management measure was selected to address the proper siting, design, and installation of new OSDS in the 6217 management area. OSDS have been identified as contributors of pathogens, nutrients, and other pollutants to ground water and surface waters. Nearly all coastal States have siting regulations establishing criteria for setbacks, separation distances, and percolation rates (Myers, 1991; WCFS, 1992). However, these programs often do not adequately protect surface waters from pollutants generated by OSDS. This management measure was selected to ensure that States comprehensively control new OSDS siting, design, and installation in order to protect surface waters.
The management measure components were selected to address problems known to be associated with OSDS. These management measure components were selected because proper siting of OSDS and the use of setbacks have been identified as effective methods for reducing nutrient and pathogen loadings to ground water and surface waters. All components of this management measure were selected to direct the placement of OSDS away from areas where site conditions are inadequate to allow proper treatment to occur and areas where there is a high potential for subsequent system failures that may cause contamination of waterbodies. In addition, this management measure was selected because siting and density controls can be effective complements to denitrifying systems. However, these requirements alone are often not adequate to protect surface waters, particularly in situations where installation and replacement of OSDS are allowed without thorough consideration of OSDS-related impacts. Periodic reevaluation of these requirements is necessary to ensure protection of surface waters.
Management measure components (1) (a) and (b) were selected to reduce occurrences of hydraulic overloading of conventional OSDS, which may result in inadequate treatment of septic system effluent and contamination of ground water or surface water. When excessive wastewater volumes are delivered to the soil absorption field, failure can occur. In addition, soil saturated with wastewater will not allow oxygen to pass into the soil. Hydraulic overloading often results from changes in water use habits, such as increased family size, the addition of new water-using appliances that require increased water consumption, or high seasonal use. New systems may fail within a few months if water use exceeds the system's capacity to absorb effluent (Mancl, 1985). Water conservation reduces the amount of water an absorption field must accept.
Since numerous States have responded to this concern by adopting low-flow plumbing fixture regulations (Table 4-18 (22k)), requiring such fixtures is not unreasonable. In addition, a number of States have regulations prohibiting the installation of garbage disposals where OSDS are used. If low-flow plumbing fixtures are used, it is important that OSDS design not be modified to decrease the required septic tank size. The use of smaller septic tanks will negate the advantages of using low-flow plumbing fixtures.
For absorption fields to operate properly, they must have aerobic conditions. Jarrett et al. (1985) stated that 75 percent of the total number of soil absorption field failures could be attributed to hydraulic overloading. High-efficiency plumbing fixtures can reduce the total water load by as much as 60 percent (Jarrett et al., 1985) and reduce the chance of absorption field failure. Table 4-19 illustrates daily water use and pollutant loadings.
Management measure component (5) was selected to abate OSDS nitrogen loadings to surface waters where nitrogen is a cause of surface water degradation. The Chesapeake Bay Program (1990) found that 55 to 85 percent of the nitrogen entering a conventional OSDS can be discharged into ground water. Conventional septic systems account for 74 percent of the nitrogen entering Buttermilk Bay (at the northern end of Buzzard's Bay) in Massachusetts (Horsely Witten Hegeman, 1991). A study of nitrogen entering the Delaware Inland Bays found that a significant portion of the total pollutant load could be attributed to septic systems. The study determined that septic systems accounted for 15 percent, 16 percent, and 11 percent of the nitrogen inputs to Assawoman, Indian River, and Rehoboth Bays, respectively (Reneau, 1977; Ritter, 1986). Alternatives to conventional OSDS that can substantially reduce nitrogen loadings are available.
In 1980, EPA developed a design manual for onsite wastewater treatment and disposal systems. An update of this document is being prepared.
As discussed more fully at the beginning of this chapter and in Chapter 1, the following practices are described for illustrative purposes only. State programs need not require implementation of these practices. However, as a practical matter, EPA anticipates that the management measure set forth above generally will be implemented by applying one or more management practices appropriate to the source, location, and climate. The practices set forth below have been found by EPA to be representative of the types of practices that can be applied successfully to achieve the management measure described above.
Many of the following practices involve siting and locating OSDS within the 6217 management area. They address issues such as minimum lot size, depth to water table, and site-specific characteristics such as soil percolation rate. Table 4-20 illustrates the variability in State and local requirements for siting of OSDS. The practices were developed to address the issue of siting OSDS given the variable nature of this activity.
- a. Develop setback guidelines and official maps showing areas where conditions are suitable for conventional septic OSDS installation.
Both conventional and alternative OSDS usually include a soil absorption field. These absorption fields require a certain minimum area of soil surrounding the system to effectively remove pathogens and other pollutants. Setbacks from wells, surface waters, building foundations, and property boundaries are necessary to minimize the threat to public health and the environment. The setback should be based on soil type, slope, presence and character of the water table (as defined on a map developed by the implementing agency), and the type of OSDS. Setback guidelines should be set for both traditional and alternative OSDS. The Design Manual for Onsite Wastewater Treatment and Disposal Systems (USEPA, 1980) recommends the following setbacks for soil absorption systems, although other increased setbacks may be necessary to protect ground water and surface waters from viral and bacteria transport to account for tidal influences and accommodate sea level rise. (NOTE: Setback distance requirements may vary considerably based on local soil conditions and aquifer properties):
Water supply wells 50 to 100 feet Surface waters, springs 50 to 100 feet Escarpments 10 to 20 feet Boundary of property 5 to 10 feet Building foundations 10 to 20 feet (30 feet when located up-slope from a building in slowly permeable soils)
For mound systems, the mound perimeter requires down-slope setbacks to make certain that the basal area of the mound is sufficient to absorb the wastewater before it reaches the perimeter of the mound to avoid surface seepage. The Design Manual for Onsite Wastewater Treatment and Disposal Systems (USEPA, 1980) provides guidance on setbacks for mound systems.
- b. OSDS should be sited, designed, and constructed so that there is sufficient separation between the soil absorption field and the seasonal high water table or limiting layer, depending on site characteristics, including but not limited to hydrology, soils, and topography.
Studies have shown that at least 4 feet of unsaturated soil below the ponded liquid in a soil absorption field is necessary to (1) remove bacteria and viruses to an acceptable level, (2) remove most organics and phosphorus, and (3) nitrify a large portion of the ammonia (University of Wisconsin, 1978). The majority of coastal States already require a minimum separation distance of at least 2 feet (Woodward-Clyde, 1992). Massachusetts requires a minimum separation of 4 feet; 5 feet is required by towns with sensitive surface waters. Several towns on Cape Cod have adopted 5 feet as the minimum. A prescribed minimum distance is necessary to prevent contaminants from directly entering ground water and surface waters. Areas with rapid soil permeabilities (e.g., a percolation rate of less than 5 minutes/inch) may require a greater separation distance. However, because of local variation, these numbers are provided only as guidance.
A study on a barrier island of North Carolina (Carlile et al., 1981) found high concentrations of nitrogen, phosphorus, and pathogens in shallow ground-water wells located beneath septic system soil absorption fields. These high concentrations were suspected to be the result of inadequate separation distance to the water table. Further analysis revealed that, at the design loading rate, a greater separation distance reduced the ground-water concentration of indicator organisms from 4.6 to 2.3 logs, and phosphorus by 93 percent. Nitrogen levels were also reduced, but this improvement (10 percent) was not as dramatic as that observed for bacteria and phosphorus.
- c. Require assessments of site suitability prior to issuing permits for OSDS.
Site assessments should be performed to determine the soil infiltration rate, soil pollutant removal capacity, acceptable hydraulic loading rate, and depth to the water table prior to issuing permits for OSDS. Percolation tests are usually performed to determine the soil infiltration rate. However, Hill and Frink (1974) stated that percolation tests are often performed improperly and system failures have resulted from improper siting and inadequate percolation rates. In addition, regulatory values based on acceptable percolation rates vary considerably (e.g., Delaware - 6 to 60 min/in; Georgia - 50 to 90 min/in; Michigan - 3 to 60 min/in; and Virginia - 5 to 120 min/in (Woodward-Clyde, 1992). States such as Florida and Mississippi require soil evaluations to determine the suitability of an absorption field. A soil evaluation should also be used in conjunction with percolation test results to determine whether a site is acceptable, and soil percolation requirements should be phased out, if appropriate. These evaluations should examine the organic content of the soil, the grain size distribution, and the structure of the soil. In addition, hydraulic loading should be evaluated to determine the suitability of a site for septic tank use.
A system such as DRASTIC methodology (USEPA, 1987) can also be used to map areas where aquifers may be vulnerable to pollution from OSDS. DRASTIC considers soil permeability, depth to ground water, and aquifer characteristics.
- d. If OSDS are sited in areas where conditions indicate that nitrogen-limited waters may be adversely affected by excessive nitrogen loading, minimize densities of development in those areas and require the use of denitrification systems.
In areas where nitrogen is a problem pollutant, it is important to consider the density of OSDS. As the density of residences increases, lot sizes decrease and impacts (especially from nitrogen) on underlying ground water may intensify. One-half to 5-acre lots are generally the minimal requirement for siting OSDS, but the lot size may need to be larger if nitrogen is a problem pollutant. Limits on the density of absorption fields should also reflect variations in climate (Rutledge et al., undated). In Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts, a minimum lot size of 70,000 square feet was recommended as necessary to avoid nitrogen-induced degradation (Horsely Witten Hegeman, 1991). However, this practice should not preclude implementation of the use of cluster development to retain open areas necessary for controlling NPS pollution.
A number of treatment systems are known to remove nitrogen using denitrification. Such systems include sand and anaerobic upflow filters, and constructed wetlands. These systems are described in practice "f." Most of these systems require nitrification of septic tank effluent as an initial stage of the treatment process. When properly operated, these systems have been shown to have the potential to remove over 50 percent of the total nitrogen from septic tank effluent.
- e. Develop and implement local plumbing codes that require practices that are compatible with OSDS use.
As stated previously, the majority of OSDS soil absorption field failures are attributed to hydraulic overload. Solids loads from garbage disposals can also lead to clogging and failure of an absorption field. To address these problems, plumbing codes that minimize the potential for soil absorption field failure should be implemented.
Plumbing codes that require the use of high-efficiency plumbing fixtures in new development can reduce these water loads considerably. Such high-efficiency fixtures include toilets of 1.5 gallons or less per flush, shower heads of 2.0 gallons per minute (gpm), faucets of 1.5 gpm or less, and front-loading washing machines of up to 27 gallons per 10- to 12-pound load. Implementing these fixtures can reduce total in-house water use by 30 percent to 70 percent (Consumer Reports July 1990, February 1991).
- f. In areas suitable for OSDS, select, design, and construct the appropriate OSDS that will protect surface waters and ground water.
Selection of an OSDS should consider site soil and ground-water characteristics and the sensitivity of the receiving water(s) to OSDS effluent. Descriptions and design considerations for systems have been provided below. Table 4-21 (31k) contains available cost and effectiveness data for some of these systems. Design and operation and maintenance information on these devices can be found in Design Manual for Onsite Wastewater Treatment and Disposal Systems (USEPA, 1980).
Conventional Septic System. A conventional septic system consists of a settling or septic tank and a soil absorption field. The traditional system accepts both greywater (wastewater from showers, sinks, and laundry) and blackwater (wastewater from toilets). These systems are typically restricted in that the bottom invert of the absorption field must be at least 2 feet above the seasonally high water table or impermeable layer (separation distance) and the percolation rate of the soil must be between 1 and 60 minutes per inch. Also, to ensure proper operation, the tank should be pumped every 3 to 5 years. Nitrogen removal of these systems is minimal and somewhat dependent on temperature. The most common type of failure of these systems is from clogging of the absorption field, insufficient separation distance to the water table, insufficient percolation capacity of the soil, and overloading of water.
Mound Systems. Mound systems are an alternative to conventional OSDS and are used on sites where insufficient separation distance or percolation conditions exist. Mound systems are typically designed so the effluent from the septic tank is routed to a dosing tank and then pumped to a soil absorption field that is located in elevated sand fill above the natural soil surface. There is evidence suggesting that pressure dosing provides more uniform distribution of effluent throughout the absorption field and may result in marginally better performance. A major limitation to the use of mounds is slope. In Pennsylvania, elevated sand mound beds are permitted only in areas with slopes less than 8 percent (Mancl, 1985).
Where adequate area is available for subsurface effluent discharge, and permanent or seasonal high ground water is at least 2 feet below the surface, the elevated sand mound may be used in coastal areas. This system can treat septic tank effluent to a level that usually approaches primary drinking water standards for BOD5, suspended solids, and pathogens by the time the effluent plume passes the property line for single-family dwellings. A mound system will not normally produce significant reductions in levels of total nitrogen discharged, but should achieve high levels of nitrification.
Intermittent Sand Filter. Intermittent sand filters are used in conjunction with pretreatment methods such as septic tanks and soil absorption fields. An intermittent sand filter receives and treats effluent from the septic tank before it is distributed to the leaching field. The sand filter consists of a bed (either open or buried) of granular material from 24 to 36 inches deep. The material is usually from 0.35 to 1.0 mm in diameter. The bed of granular material is underlain with graded gravel and collector drains. These systems have been shown to be effective for nitrogen removal; however, this process is dependent on temperature. Water loading recommendations for intermittent sand filters are typically between 1 and 5 gallons per day/square foot (gpd/ft2) but can be higher depending on wastewater characteristics. Primary failure of sand filters is from clogging, and the following maintenance is recommended to keep the system performing properly: resting the bed, raking the surface layer, or removing the top surface medium and replacing it with clean medium. In general, the filters should be inspected every 3 to 4 months to ensure that they are operating properly (Otis, undated).
Intermittent sand filters are used for small commercial and institutional developments and individual homes. The size of the facility is limited by land availability. The filters should be buried in the ground, but may be constructed above ground in areas of shallow bedrock or high water tables. Covered filters are required in areas with extended periods of subfreezing weather. Excessive long-term rainfall and runoff may be detrimental to filter performance, requiring measures to divert water away from the system (USEPA, 1980).
Recirculating Sand Filter. A recirculating sand filter is a modified intermittent sand filter in which effluent from the filter is recirculated through the septic tank and/or the sand filter before it is discharged to the soil absorption field. The addition of the recirculation loop in the system may enhance removal effectiveness and allows media size to be increased to as much as 1.5 mm in diameter and allows water loading rates in the range of 3 to 10 gpd/ft2 to be used. Recirculation rates of 3:1 to 5:1 are generally recommended.
Buried or recirculating sand filters can achieve a very high level of treatment of septic tank effluent before discharge to surface water or soil. This usually means single-digit figures for BOD5 and suspended solids and secondary body contact standards for pathogens (in practice, 100-900 per 100 ml). Dosed recycling between sand filter and septic tank or similar devices can result in significant levels of nitrification/denitrification, equivalent to between 50 and 75 percent overall nitrogen removal, depending on the recycling ratio. Regular buried or recirculating sand filters may require as much as 1 square foot of filter per gallon of septic tank effluent.
Anaerobic Upflow Filter. An anaerobic upflow filter (AUF) resembles a septic tank filled with 3/8-inch gravel with a deep inlet tee and a shallow outlet tee. An AUF system includes a septic tank, an AUF, a sand filter, and a soil absorption field. As with the sand filter, dose recycling can be used to enhance this system's performance. Hydraulic loading for an AUF is generally in the range of 3 to 15 gpd. An AUF resembles a septic tank or the second chamber of a dual-chambered tank. It should be sized to allow retention times between 16 and 24 hours. There is a high degree of removal of suspended solids and insoluble BOD. Dosed recycling between sand filter and AUF can result in 60 to 75 percent overall nitrogen removal.
A growing body of data at the University of Arkansas and elsewhere suggests that an AUF can provide further treatment of septic tank effluent before discharge to a sand filter. This treatment allows a drastic reduction (by a factor of 8 to 20) in the size of sand filter needed to attain the performance described above, with major reductions in cost (Krause, 1991).
Trenches and Beds. Trenches are typically 1 to 3 feet wide and can be greater than 100 feet long. Infiltration occurs through the bottom and sides of the trench. Each trench contains one distribution pipe, and there may be multiple trenches in a single system. Like conventional septic systems, they require 2 to 4 feet between the bottom of the system and the seasonally high water table or bedrock, and are best suited in sandy to loamy soils where the infiltration rate is 1 to 60 minutes per inch. Gravelly soils or poor-permeability soils (60 to 90 minutes per inch) are not suitable for trench systems. However, where the infiltration rate is greater than 1 minute per inch, 6 inches of loamy soil can be added around the system to create the proper infiltration rate (Otis, undated).
Beds are similar to trenches except that infiltration occurs only through the bottom of the bed. Beds are usually greater than 3 feet wide and contain one distribution pipe per bed. Single beds are commonly used; however, dual beds may be installed and used alternately. The same soil suitability conditions that apply to trenches apply to bed systems.
Trenches are often preferred to beds for a few reasons. First, with equal bottom areas, trenches have five times the sidewall area for effluent absorption; second, there is less soil damage during the construction of trenches; and third, trenches are more easily used on sloped sites.
The effluent from trenches or beds can be distributed by gravity, dosing, or uniform application. Dosing refers to periodically releasing the effluent using a siphon or pump after a small quantity of effluent has accumulated. Uniform application similarly stores the effluent for a short time, after which it is released through a pressurized system to achieve uniform distribution over the bed or trench. Uniform application results in the least amount of clogging.
Maintenance of trenches and beds is minimal. Dual trench or bed systems are especially effective because they allow the use of one system while the other rests for 6 months to a year to restore its effectiveness (Otis, undated).
Water Separation System. A water separation system separates greywater and blackwater. The greywater is treated using a conventional septic system, and the blackwater is contained in a vault/holding tank. The blackwater is later hauled off site for disposal.
For extreme situations or for seasonal residents, some form of separation of toilet wastes from bath and kitchen wastes may be helpful. Most nitrogen discharges in residential wastewater come from human urine. A very efficient toilet (0.8 gallon per flush), if routed to a separate holding tank, would need pumping only three or four times per year even for a family of four permanent residents.
Constructed Wetlands. Constructed wetlands are usually used for polishing of septage effluent that has already had some degree of treatment (processing through a septic tank or other aggregated system). The performance of constructed wetlands will be degraded in colder climates during winter months because of plant die-off and reduction in the metabolic rate of aquatic organisms.
Cluster Systems. For the purposes of this guidance, a cluster system can be defined as a collection of individual septic systems where primary treatment of septage occurs on each site and the resulting effluent is collected and treated to further reduce pollutants. Additional treatment may involve the use of sand filters or AUF, constructed wetlands, chemical treatment, or aerobic treatment. The use of cluster systems may provide advantages due to increased treatment capability and economy of scale.
Evapotranspiration (ET) and Evapotranspiration/Absorption (ETA) Systems. ET and ETA systems combine the process of evaporation from the surface of a bed and transpiration from plants to dispose of wastewater. The wastewater would require some form of pretreatment such as a septic tank. An ET bed usually consists of a liner, drainfield tile, and gravel and sand layers. ET and ETA systems are useful where soils are unsuitable for subsurface disposal, where the climate is favorable to evaporation, and where ground-water protection is essential. In both types of systems, distribution piping is laid in gravel, overlain by sand, and planted with suitable vegetation. Plants can transpire up to 10 times the amount of water evaporated during the daytime. For an ET system to be effective, evaporation must be equal to or greater than the total water input to the system because it requires an impermeable seal around the system. In the United States, this limits use of ET systems to the Southwest. The size of the system depends on the quantity of effluent inflow, precipitation, the local evapotranspiration rate, and soil permeability (Otis, undated). Data were unavailable on this BMP, so its cost and effectiveness were not evaluated.
Vaults or Holding Tanks. Vaults or holding tanks are used to containerize wastewater in emergency situations or other temporary functions. This technology should be discouraged because of high anticipated overloads due to difficult pumping logistics. Such systems require frequent pumping, which can be expensive.
Fixed Film Systems. A fixed film system employs media to which microorganisms may become attached. Fixed film systems include trickling filters, upflow filters, and rotating biological filters. These systems require pretreatment of sewage in a septic tank; final effluent can be discharged to a soil absorption field. Cost and effectiveness data for this BMP were not available.
Aerobic Treatment Units. Aerobic treatment units can be employed on site. A few systems are available commercially that employ various types of aerobic technology. However, these systems require regular supervision and maintenance to be effective. They require pretreatment by a septic tank, and effluent can be discharged to a soil absorption field. Power requirements can be significant for certain types of these packages. Cost and effectiveness data for this BMP were not available.
Sequencing Batch Reactor. A sequencing batch reactor is a modified conventional continuous-flow activated sludge treatment system. Conventional activated sludge systems treat wastewater in a series of separate tanks. Sequencing batch reactors carry out aeration and sedimentation/clarification simultaneously in the same tank. They are designed for the removal of biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) and total suspended solids (TSS) from typical municipal and industrial wastewater at flow rates of less than 5 MGD. Modification to the design of the basic system allows for nitrification and denitrification and for the removal of biological phosphorus to occur.
The sequencing batch reactor is particularly suitable for small flows and for nutrient removal. Sequencing batch reactors can be either used for new developments or connected to existing septic systems. Small reactors can be sited in areas of only a few hundred square feet. While sequencing batch reactor cost and operation and maintenance requirements are greater than those for conventional OSDS, sequencing batch reactors may be suitable alternatives for sites where high-density development and/or unsuitable soils may preclude adequate treatment of effluent.
Sequencing batch reactors can also be used where municipal and industrial wastes require conventional or extended aeration activated sludge treatment. They are most applicable at flow rates of 3000 gpd to 5 MGD but lose their cost-effectiveness at design rates exceeding 10 MGD (USEPA, 1992). Sequencing batch reactors are very useful for the pretreatment of industrial waste and for small flow applications. They are also optimally useful where wastewater is generated for less than 12 hours per day.
Disinfection Devices. In some areas, pathogen contamination from OSDS is a major concern. Disinfection devices may be used in conjunction with the above systems to treat effluent for pathogens before it is discharged to a soil absorption field. Disinfection devices include halogen applicators (for chlorine and iodine), ozonators, and UV applicators. Of these three types, halogen applicators are usually the most practical (USEPA, 1980). Installation of these devices in an OSDS increases the system's cost and adds to the system's operation and maintenance requirements. However, it may be necessary in some areas to install these devices to control pathogen contamination of surface waters and ground water.
(NOTE: The use of disinfection systems should be evaluated to determine the potential impacts of chlorine or iodine loadings. Some States, such as Maryland, have additional requirements or prohibit the use of these processes.)
Massachusetts has adopted a provision of its State Environmental Code that allows for "approval of innovative disposal systems if it can be demonstrated that their impact on the environment and hazard to public health is not greater than that of other approved systems" (310 CMR 15.18). Commonly referred to as Title 5, this legislation requires evaluation of pollutant loadings as well as management requirements prior to approval of alternative systems (Venhuizen, 1992).
- g. Design sites so that an area for a backup soil absorption field is planned for in case of failure of the first field.
In preparation of site plans and designs for OSDS, it is recommended that a suitable area be identified and reserved for construction of a second or replacement soil absorption field, in the event that the first fails or expansion is necessary. Oliveri and others (1981) determined that continuously loaded soil absorption fields have a finite life span and that 50 percent of all fields fail within 25 years. Consequently, dual systems or a plan for a backup system is necessary. The area for the backup soil absorption field should be located to facilitate simultaneous or alternate loading of the old and new systems. With trench systems, the area between the original trenches can serve as the replacement area as long as sufficient vertical spacing exists between the trenches.
- h. During construction of OSDS, soils should not be compacted in the primary or the backup soil absorption field area.
Care must be taken during the construction of OSDS so that the soil in the absorption field area is not compacted. Compaction could severely decrease the infiltration capacity of the soil and lead to failure of the absorption field.
- i. Perform postconstruction inspection of OSDS.
A postconstruction inspection program should be implemented to ensure that OSDS were installed properly. The inspection should ensure that design specifications were followed and that soil absorption field areas were not compacted during construction. Many local governments in Massachusetts require postconstruction inspection for OSDS (Myers, 1991).
5. Effectiveness Information and Cost Information
Cost and effectiveness data on alternative OSDS systems are presented in Table 4-21 (31k).
The availability of high-quality, water-efficient plumbing fixtures (1.6-gallon toilets, 1.5-gpm showerheads, etc.) can provide a reduction of 50 percent in residential water use and wastewater volume, at an incremental cost of only about $20 to $100 for new homes. For on-site treatment, the higher influent concentrations are counterbalanced by longer septic tank retention time. This water conservation can allow further reductions in the size of sand filters or other forms of treatment (Krause, 1991).
The elimination of garbage disposals will reduce hydraulic loadings to OSDS and decrease the potential for solids to clog the absorption field, as shown in Table 4-22.
Performance data on sequencing batch reactors show that typical designs can achieve BOD and TSS concentrations of less than 10 mg/L and that modified systems can denitrify to limits of 1 to 2 mg/L NH3-N (EPA, 1992). Some modified sequencing batch reactors have been shown to exhibit denitrification. Biological phosphorus removal to less than 1.0 mg/L has also been achieved (EPA, 1992).
The costs for sequencing batch reactors, adjusted to 1991 dollars, for constructing and operating sequencing batch reactors were determined for several existing systems. The capital costs for six treatment systems were found to range from $1.93 to $30.69/gpd of design flow (USEPA, 1992). The operating costs for three existing systems, based on 1990 average flow rates, ranged from $0.17/gpd to $2.88/gpd (USEPA, 1992).
Costs for a complete mound system, including a septic tank, in the rural Midwest are typically $7,000 installed (Krause, 1991). The cost for a residential septic tank/AUF/sand filter combination in the rural Midwest normally ranges from $3,000 to $4,000 (Krause, 1991). Costs for buried or recirculatng sand filters depend on the filter size and the availability of sand of the proper texture. Costs for a complete system in the rural Midwest may range between $5,000 and $10,000 (Krause, 1991).