Representatives from Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia signed a Memorandum of Cooperation at the Chesapeake Bay Program office in Annapolis, Md., on April 16, 2015. Also in attendance we (Image by Gemma Kite/Horsley Witten Group)

Representatives from states across the Bay region recently signed a cooperative accord that will help reduce the amount of nitrogen flowing from onsite wastewater systems into local waterways.

At the Chesapeake Bay Program office last week, representatives from Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia signed a Memorandum of Cooperation to share data related to the performance of advanced pretreatment technologies for “onsite wastewater treatment systems,” often called septic systems. Pretreatment of wastewater allows for the removal of potentially harmful pollutants such as nitrogen—but these technologies are often costly, and their approval takes time. Under the arrangement, information-sharing across states will help expedite the approval and deployment of these technologies, as well as offer cost savings to manufacturers and consumers.

Onsite septic systems account for less than five percent of the nutrients flowing to the Bay; advanced pretreatment technologies are expected to reduce nitrogen from these systems by at least 50 percent, as compared to conventional systems. Improvements in wastewater treatment will help achieve the clean water goals of the new Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, which encompasses the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL).

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