Nitrogen-Sensing Technology Making an Impact on Cape Cod

Photo by Christian Fischer

BARNSTABLE – The Massachusetts Alternative Septic System Test Center recently announced that testing conducted at the facility over the last three years has aided in the development of an award-winning sensor for measuring nitrogen discharges from innovative and alternative (I/A) septic systems.

The presence of excess nitrogen levels in wastewater disposed via local septic systems has been an ongoing issue in the protection of Cape Cods fragile waterways.

Designed by Dr. Qingzhi Zhu at Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, the sensor measures nitrogenic concentrations in real time and transmits the data where it can be analyzed remotely to assess septic system performance, removing costly barriers associated with monitoring septic systems.

“This nitrogen sensor will significantly improve and simplify nitrogen monitoring in I/A systems, making them more accessible for use where they are needed most,” said MASSTC Director Brian Baumgaertel.

“We are proud that the Test center was able to contribute to the development of this important technology and look forward to seeing it implemented here on the Cape.

The center was set up in 1999 to examine the performance of advanced onsite septic systems that were beginning to spread in Massachusetts and allows companies to perform research and development work on newer systems.

The center’s work has taken on added importance in the ongoing study of organic contaminants such as nitrogen and phosphorous, as well as inorganic pollutants including Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) which have come under heavy scrutiny by local environmental agencies.

“A company will reach out to us because they’re looking for a place to test their products, so we’ll give them that location to come and put it in the ground here,” said Baumgaertel, “and once it’s installed, we feed it with all the waste water that they could ever want.”

“All of our wastewater is sourced from joint base Cape Cod and from the County Jail. So it’s a very good representation of wastewater to test systems with,” he said.

Once it reaches commercial deployment, the technology will benefit wastewater operations and regulators in local and state jurisdictions, as well as Cape residents in regions where water quality is a concern.

By, Matthew Tomlinson, NewsCenter

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