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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.

Based on this research, the Committee identified five residential wastewater treatment technologies that were reported to be capable of meeting Pinelands water quality standards on lots smaller than 3.2 acres in size. The identified technologies were the Amphidrome, Ashco RFSIII, Cromaglass, Bioclere and FAST treatment systems. All of the identified systems utilize proven biological nutrient removal processes to reduce nitrogen levels in treated wastewater.

Based upon reported nitrogen removal efficiencies and the Pinelands Septic Dilution Model, the Committee concluded that, subject to verification via the pilot program, the Amphidrome, Cromaglass, Bioclere and FAST systems could be permitted on lots of at least one acre and that the Ashco RFSIII system could be allowed on residential lots of at least 1.5 acres. 

The Ad Hoc Septic System Committee unanimously recommended that an interim program be developed for the approval, installation and monitoring of the five identified 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 the five identified technologies could be maintained and operated so as 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 on line in April 2004.  A total of 331 Pilot Program systems have been installed in the Pinelands Area through June 5, 2019.

Commission staff members produce an Annual Report that summarizes system installation and monitoring data each year. Staff members periodically deliver a PowerPoint Presentation which summarizes the findings presented in the Annual Reports. In addition, Commission staff periodically produces a Pilot Program Implementation Report, the last of which was issued in November 2019. The latest Implementation Report is accompanied by an April 2018 Power Point Presentation.

Since the inception of the pilot program in 2002, there have been a number of program modifications that have been recommended by the Executive Director in the Annual and Implementation Reports. These recommendations have taken the form of both amendments to the CMP and administrative changes to the program. All CMP amendments and administrative modifications to the pilot program have been published in the New Jersey Administrative Code.

Examples of CMP amendments include the elimination of the Ashco RFSIII and Cromaglass technologies from the pilot program. The Ashco RFSIII system was removed due to the technology vendor’s inability to supply treatment units to residents in the Pinelands Area. The Cromaglass technology’s participation was terminated due to its failure to meet Pinelands water quality standards. Other CMP amendments include the permanent approval of the Amphidrome and Bioclere technologies for residential use on minimum one acre parcels, the permanent approval of the FAST technology for residential development on minimum 1.4 acre parcels and the addition of four new NSF Standard 245 approved nitrogen reducing technologies. Most recently, the Commission removed duplicative system operation and maintenance (O&M) language in the CMP choosing to simplify O&M requirements by referencing the equally rigorous NJDEP requirements contained in N.J.A.C. 7:9A.

Program administrative changes include the temporary imposition of 1.7 acre minimum parcel size when a BioBarrier system is proposed for residential use. This increase from the previously required minimum one acre parcel size is based on laboratory reports of the total nitrogen concentrations in treated effluent in conjunction with the Pinelands Septic (nitrogen) Dilution Model. The increased minimum parcel size will remain in effect until the technology vendor demonstrates improved system performance or the Commission acts to implement a permanent minimum parcel size requirement.

For more information about the Pilot Program, please contact Ed Wengrowski, Environmental Technologies Coordinator, at

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