Inching Closer to a Better I/A Measurement Tool

Amid the drumbeat of bad news about the declining water quality within Shoestring Bay and other Cape Cod waterways, we’ve got some good news to report.  The Cape’s Massachusetts Alternative Septic System Test Center (MASSTC) announced that we’ve moved one step closer to having a superior nitrogen sensor to measure the compliance of I/A septic systems
[learn more about I/A systems.]

I/A systems improve upon conventional Title 5 septic system design by adding components that address excess nitrogen from wastewater.

Following a three-year on-site field verification test, MASSTC has “aided in the successful development of an award-winning sensor for measuring nitrogen discharges from innovative and alternative (I/A) septic systems.” The lack of an approved measurement technology has been one of several barriers to the Town of Barnstable’s acceptance of I/A systems as an alternative to sewering. [read our take on the Town’s 30-year plan to address nitrogen pollution.] Until now, I/A systems’ increased monitoring requirements have been costly and inconvenient. Unfortunately, the standard for future compliance has yet to be set by the MA Dept. of Environmental Protection.

MASSTC’s Brian Baumgaertel

The nitrogen sensor, designed by Dr. Qingzhi Zhu at Stony Brook University, “measures nitrogen concentrations in real-time and transmits the data” for remote analysis. As MASSTC’s Brian Baumgaertel noted, “This…sensor will significantly improve and simplify nitrogen monitoring in I/A systems, making them more accessible for use where they are needed most.” [Read Baumgaerel’s interview with

Next step…commercial deployment of the nitrogen sensor with web connectivity. Let’s hope the private sector steps up to manufacture and distribute this technology so towns across Cape Cod can confidently adopt I/A systems as an expedited method of repairing the damage to our waterways.

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