Alternative Nitrogen Removal Options

As an alternative to traditional Title 5 septic systems and centralized wastewater treatment systems, there are a number of techniques that can be used to reduce nitrogen at the source or to mitigate its impacts on coastal ponds.

The Cape Cod Commission's Area-Wide Water Quality Plan (208 Plan)

This plan was prepared to give an overview of wastewater management challenges on Cape Cod as well as possible ways to deal with them. Chapter 4: Nutrient Mitigation Technologies & Policies includes all nutrient mitigation technologies and policies that the Cape Cod Commission studied.  

  • Appendix 4A is all about xxxxxxxxx. 
  • Appendix 4D is a table of the Summary of the Risks and Solutions Relevant to Each Technology Option. 
  • Appendix 4E explores the site screening criteria for various technologies.

Barnstable County Comparison Cost for Wastewater Management

The Barnstable County Wastewater Cost Task Force was established to compile and analyze current local information on the costs to build and operate wastewater systems in use on Cape Cod. Based on that information, the Task Force has developed cost estimates for a wide range of wastewater system sizes and types to help Cape Cod towns fairly compare available options. The application of the results will allow towns to identify which options are best for their circumstances and thus streamline their comprehensive wastewater management planning. Data were compiled and cost estimates prepared for four types of wastewater systems:

  • Individual on-lot systems with and without nitrogen removal.
  • Cluster systems serving up to approximately 30 homes with aggregate wastewater flows less than 10,000 gallons per day (gpd).
  • Satellite systems serving from 30 to 1,000 homes (wastewater flows between 10,000 gpd and 300,000 gpd), intended to treat and dispose of wastewater from one area of a town.
  • Centralized systems which can provide for most or all of a town's wastewater management needs, and that might be suitable for serving portions of neighboring towns.

Innovative Alternative (I/A) Septic Systems

Any septic system or part of one that is not designed or constructed in a way consistent with a conventional Title 5 system. A conventional system has a septic tank, a distribution box or dosing mechanism, a soil-absorption system, and a reserve area. Some examples of alternative systems are recirculating sand filters, aerobic treatment units, peat filters, humus/composting toilets, and intermittent sand filters. Some I/A technologies are used to reduce nitrogen in nitrogen sensitive areas.

The Massachusetts Alternative Septic System Test Center

The Massachusetts Alternative Septic System Test Center is located in Sandwich, Massachusetts. The mission of the Test Center is to evaluate the performance and operation costs of new and innovative wastewater disposal technologies in a carefully controlled and unbiased manner and provide this information to regulators and consumers, and assist vendors in getting their technologies approved for use in Massachusetts more quickly and at a lesser cost. The Center hopes that their research with lead to varied and economical alternatives to the conventional septic system, with improved benefits to the environment in Massachusetts and beyond.


There are also many alternative ways to mitigate nitrogen before it gets to a coastal pond or to reduce it once it is in the pond. 

  • Shellfishing
  • Phytoremediation
  • Constructed Wetlands
  • Permeable Reative Barrier
  • Floating Islands
  • Inlet Openings



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The Stone Building
33 New York Avenue
Oak Bluffs, MA 02557

Telephone: 508-693-3453
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Martha's Vineyard Commission
P.O. Box 1447
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