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Alternate Design Septic System Program

The Pinelands Commission is a pioneer in testing high-performance wastewater treatment systems that better protect Pinelands water resources.

In 2000, the Commission formed a special Ad Hoc Septic System Committee to research alternate septic system technologies that might better meet the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan's (CMP) water quality standards for residential development on lots smaller than 3.2 acres.

The water quality requirements of the CMP include provisions that are aimed at controlling the amount of nitrogen that enters the environment because nitrogen is a significant pollutant and because it often serves as an indicator of changes in overall water quality.

Alternate design technologies reduce total nitrogen levels in treated wastewater and are required where existing zoning authorizes unsewered development on parcels that are less than 3.2 acres to a minimum of one acre.

In its research efforts, the Committee consulted wastewater engineering professionals, state and regional on-site technology demonstration projects, alternate treatment system technology manufacturers, Pinelands Area county health departments and other state and local agencies.

The Ad Hoc Septic System Committee unanimously recommended that an interim program be developed for the approval, installation and monitoring of wastewater treatment technologies and that the program include conditions and safeguards to govern their use. The recommendations are contained in the April 2000 Staff Report to the Ad Hoc Committee. To implement these recommendations, the Commission amended the CMP in 2002 to establish the Alternate Design Treatment Systems Pilot Program.

The Pilot Program was implemented to provide a means to test whether select nitrogen reducing technologies could be maintained and operated to meet the water quality standards of the CMP in a manner that a homeowner can be reasonably expected to follow. Implementation of the Pilot Program commenced in August 2002, with the first pilot program treatment system installed and brought online in April 2004.  A total of 346 Pilot Program systems have been installed in the Pinelands Area through June 5, 2020. To date, three technologies have been shown to meet Pinelands water quality standards when serving residences on one-acre parcels, the minimum parcel size for onsite wastewater systems in the Pinelands Area. These approved technologies are Amphidrome, Bioclere, and SeptiTech. A fourth technology, FAST, has been demonstrated to meet Pinelands water quality standards when used to serve residences on 1.4-acre parcels.  The Commission continues to evaluate other technologies through their participation in the pilot program.

Commission staff periodically produce reports on the pilot program to summarize system installations and effluent monitoring data. Staff also periodically deliver PowerPoint presentations that summarize the findings presented in the pilot program reports. In addition, Commission staff periodically produces a Pilot Program Implementation Reports, the last of which was issued in November 2019. The latest Implementation Reports were accompanied by an April 2018 PowerPoint presentation and a January 2020 PowerPoint presentation.

For more information about the Pilot Program, please contact Ed Wengrowski, Environmental Technologies Coordinator, at Ed.Wengrowski@pinelands.nj.gov.

January 2013 NJ DEP - Permit to Construct and Operate Treatment Works

Program Fact Sheet

Notes related to the continued use or decommissioning of Cromaglass septic systems in the Pinelands

System Vendor Information (List)

April 2000 Staff Report to the Ad Hoc Septic System Committee

Implementation Reports

No. 1 November 2006

No. 2 November 2009

No. 3 November 2012

No. 4 April 2018

No.5 November 2019