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What are the objectives of the NYS Center for Clean Water Technology?

The NYS Center for Clean Water Technology is developing next generation approaches for handling household wastewater that are more efficient at removing nitrogen and other contaminants, less expensive, easier to operate, and smaller in size. While our focus is on solving the nitrogen issue in Suffolk County, the solutions developed by the Center will be applicable to other parts of the United States and globally.  The Center has identified Nitrogen Removing Biofilters (NRBs) as a system potentially of meeting these goals.  

What are the affects of nitrogen in water?

On Long Island, as in many other developed areas that rely on individual onsite wastewater management, the nitrogen/nutrient-laden effluent that emanates from these systems has been linked directly to the degradation of ground and surface water quality, and to the proliferation of Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) like the red, brown and rust tides that have caused devastation of once bountiful marine populations and habitats. Nitrogren adversely affects coastal resiliency, environment, economy, land values, tourism, and recreational use of waters. In addition, the loss of wetland, seagrass and salt-marsh caused by nitrogen greatly decrease the tidal wetlands ability to protect communities from storm damage. 

Are other areas affected by nitrogen/nutrient-laden effluent?

Many other states across the United States eastern seaboard including MA, RI, MD, VA, and FL all face a similar scenario.  Moreover, 25% of homes in the United States have cesspools and septic tanks (US Census Bureau) and household wastewater represents a major pollutant in many locations across the globe.

What is an NRB?

A Nitrogen Removing Biofilter is a form of passive wastewater treatment, which means they contain few moving parts (e.g., a single low pressure dosing pump) and operate largely by gravity, making them low-energy, low-maintenance and thus, low cost. These systems have demonstrated an ability to consistently achieve high percentages of total nitrogen removal (up to 90%), as well as efficient attenuation of pathogens, viruses, phosphorous, and PPCPs.

What are PPCPs?

PPCP stands for  Pharmaceuticals and  Personal  Care  Products.  Current  individual onsite wastewater systems, while effective at protecting people and animals from the pathogens present in wastewater, are not designed to remove nutrients, pharmaceuticals, or other personal care products that pass through them. Examples of PPCPs  include items such as DEET, Bisphenol A, Nicotine, Acetaminophen, Caffeine, Ibuprofen, Warfarin, Acesulfame K, Cotinine, Paraxanthine, DEET, Chlofibric Acid, Primidone, Naproxen, Carbamezapine, Salbutamol (Albuterol), Gemfibrozil, Cimetidine, Sulfamethoxazole, Ketoprofen, Diphenhydramine, Propranolol, Atenolol, Metoprolol, TCEP, Trimethoprim, Diclofenac, Warfarin, Fluoxetine, Ranitidine, Furosemide, Ciprofloxacin, Nifedipine, Fenofibrate, Amoxicillin, Diltiazem, Atorvastatin, Azithromycin, Furosemide, Estrone, β-Estradiol, 17α-Ethynylestradiol, and Nonylphenol. 

What are the sources of PPCPs?

PPCPs can originate from numerous sources, but primarily they come from people.  When people take medications, only a small portion is absorbed by the body.  In addition, PPCPs can come from fragrances, soaps, and preservatives which are found in shampoos, laundry and dish-washing detergents, and consumer products that are washed down the drain during a shower or when washing one’s hands.  According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA),  PPCPs “are found throughout the world in any water body influenced by wastewater, including rivers, streams, ground water, coastal marine environments, and many drinking water sources."

What can I do to help?

You can help to keep unused pharmaceuticals out of the water supply by paying attention to how you dispose of unused medications.  There is no way to completely eliminate the use of pharmaceuticals and personal care products; however when you do use them follow directions and use them sparingly to reduce the amount that goes unused and eventually ends up in the environment.  Do not flush prescription drugs down the toilet or drain unless the label or accompanying patient information specifically instructs you to do so.  Additional information is available from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC).

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