There are many choices when selecting an enhanced wastewater treatment system. Below we categorized systems that function similarly. Some are hybrids. Be sure to investigate the product thoroughly and identify characteristics that are important for you, such as:
- Treatment level
- Energy use
- Depth of the system
- Full / Seasonal / Part-time Use
- Function during power outages
- Aesthetics and material sources
- Life-cycle costs
- Maintenance/complexity of the system
- Reuse options (irrigation)
- Warranty and reliability/experience of manufacturer (will they still be around in ten years?)
Your use and site will help determine which solutions are best for you. For instance:
- Is your use irregular or seasonal? Then a soil-based system or a trickling filter may be more suitable than one using activated sludge, especially if it has a “sleep” mode. Find out if the system can just sit when not in use, or whether it needs to be pumped, shut down, restarted, and pumps removed.
- Do you have a heavy organic load (heavy kitchen use)? Then look for good aeration and reduced chances for clogging, such as Soil-Air or Eliminite.
- Is venting required? If so, assess the type and location options.
- Are you concerned about monthly charges? Passive systems tend to use less energy, but usually work better with a larger septic tank for pretreatment.
- Do you have a small lot? Systems using aeration usually have a smaller footprint but higher energy costs.
- If you have shallow depths to groundwater look for shallow or adaptable systems. BUSSE and Waterloo are designed to be above ground and many others can be raised or installed above ground. Also you should consider anti-floatation devises. The shallow dispersal methods may actually save you money in locations with high groundwater due to their thin profile. Shallow dispersal methods continue to treat wastewater, including contaminants of emerging concern, such as pharmaceuticals and personal care products, which can have extremely detrimental impacts on ecosystems. Shallow dispersal methods can also replace the need for irrigation systems and fertilizer.
For performance levels, look at real data as well as test data. Three sources for this are the Barnstable County, Massachusetts Alternative Septic System Test Center, the New Jersey Pinelands Alternative Design Septic Program, and the Maryland and associated Chesapeake Bay Programs. Any system that is accepted for a general use permit for a state with a pilot/review program and similar soils and climate is likely to work well here. If the system is proprietary, check their certifications (NSF 245 EPA). There are also nonproprietary solutions that are very promising, but, while they are currently being piloted on public property, they probably will not be permitted in Suffolk County for private property until the reviews are complete. If you chose a certified system that is involved with the Suffolk County Pilot program, your approvals will most likely be easier, due to the rigorous review these systems have already undergone by third parties and the Suffolk County Department of Health Services (SCDHS).
The bacteria processing your wastewater are more effective in warm temperatures. Look for insulated covers and design components that help retain heat. Also you habits will affect performance. For instance, do not use your drainage system as a trash dump. Chemicals can kill the beneficial bacteria in your system. Fats and oils can clog your system.
Assess Your Needs
If you are updating your system understand what you have, its size, condition and its depth to groundwater. If you have a cesspool, you might want to consider systems that incorporate the pretreatment tank in the system to lower upfront costs, such as the Fuji Clean or Singulair TNT systems. If you have a septic tank, but need it to be larger, just add a second tank and it will act as the two-chambered septic tanks favored by passive systems (system that only uses one pump). If you need to replace the septic tank, a rectangular, two-chambered tank is preferred. If your leaching pits or cesspools are in good condition and have sufficient depth to groundwater, they may possibly be reused for gravity discharge.
Maintenance of the System
An enhanced system if designed, installed and maintained correctly can treat wastewater very effectively. Maintenance needs vary by system, but typically enhanced systems will need servicing once or twice per year. Pumping of solids will still need to occur as needed. Costs will likely range from $200 – $500 per year. Also check warranties and life-cycle issues. Pumps, blowers, and MBR filters tend to need periodic replacement. Some media types may need attention and/or replacement. Other media are expected to last the lifetime of the system. If you are worried about long periods of power outages, consider options acceptable to you. Generally trickling filters, except for Aquapoint Bioclere, stop functioning within a couple of days after electricity has been cut, so you will need to add a receptacle to the control panel for a generator. Others, such as aerated systems with up-flow clarifiers, continue to function as simple septic systems during outages if they use gravity discharge. Emergency bypasses to the recharge system may also be possible, depending upon the dispersal system.
When looking at costs, carefully consider what is included or being replaced. Some estimates include the cost of a new septic tank, even if the treatment unit is separate. Other systems replace the need for either a septic tank or leaching pit. Some are an additional component placed between the septic tank and leaching component, and may be appropriate for systems currently built to regulatory code. All the systems require electricity, so a control panel is usually incorporated, either near the house, or within the system. Some systems offer telemetry connections for remote monitoring. Cost data presented here are either provided by the manufacturer and/or estimates. Local costs may vary significantly, depending upon location and site conditions.
The chart below does not favor one system over another, but helps to identify characteristics that may be suitable for your conditions. Systems are grouped by type, alphabetically. Each listing has a link to a two-page fact sheet formatted to help you compare systems. Please visit the manufacturers’ websites for further information. While the technical sheets give the typical manufacturer’s warranty information, Suffolk County intends to require a three-year warranty. The energy costs on the fact sheets use a rate of 18 cents per kWh, which is the typical residential rate in Suffolk County in 2016 and the kWh are based on manufacturers’ information.
Download Info Sheets on Each Technology:
TRICKLING FILTER / FIXED FILM (aerobic)/PACKED BED
AquaPoint BioClere Model 16/12
SeptiTech SeptiTech / STAAR
Orenco Systems AdvanTex AX20
Orenco Systems AdvanTex AX-20RT P
Premier Tech Aqua (div, Premier Tech Technologies Ltd.) Ecoflo CoCo Filter ECDn Model Series
Waterloo Biofilter Waterloo Biofilter
EXTENDED AERATION/ACTIVATED SLUDGE
EXTENDED AERATION/FIXED FILM (Submerged)/SUSPENDED GROWTH/ACTIVATED SLUDGE
Adelante Consulting, Inc. Pugo Systems
Bio-Microbics MicroFAST P
Delta Environmental Products/ Pentair ECOPOD N Series (500-1500)
F. R. Mahony & Associates inc. Amphidrome
Fuji Clean USA, LLC Fuji Systems CEN5, CEN7, CEN10 P
Jet, Inc. Model J-500CF
Norweco, Inc. Hydro-Kinetic
MEMBRANE BIOREACTORS with ACTIVATED SLUDGE
SHALLOW DISPERSAL / SOIL-BASED TREATMENT / NATURAL SYSTEMS
American Manufacturing Company Perc-Rite
Geomatrix Systems, LLC GeoMat
Non-Proprietary Shallow Narrow Drainfield
GeoMatrix SoilAir to GeoMat Leaching System
GeoMatrix SoilAir to GeoU Leaching system
Non-Proprietary Shallow dispersal to sand/sawdust layers
Non-Proprietary Shallow dispersal to sand and lined sawdust layers P
Non-Proprietary Shallow dispersal to sand layer to upflow bioreactor
Non-Proprietary Natural Systems
Gray/Black water separation
Clivus Multrum, Inc. Model M Series
Sun-Mar Corporation Centrex + Excel series, Mobile, Spacesave
Permeable Reactive Barriers
Nexus eWater Pty. Ltd.