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Natural Resources Science


Non-proprietary N-removal onsite wastewater treatment systems are less costly than proprietary systems, increasing the likelihood of adoption to lower N inputs to receiving waters. We assessed the capacity of non-proprietary lignocellulose-amended soil treatment areas (LCSTAs)—a 45-cm-deep layer of sand above a 45-cm-deep layer of sand and sawdust—to lower the concentration of total N (TN) in septic tank effluent (STE) at mesocosm and field scales. The mesocosm received wastewater for two years and had a median effluent TN concentration of 3.1 mg/L and TN removal of 60–100%, meeting regulatory standards of 19 mg/L or 50% removal. Removal varied inversely with temperature, and was lower below 10 °C. Removal was higher in the mesocosm than in five field sites monitored for 12–42 months. Median effluent TN concentration and removal met the standard in three continuously-occupied homes but not for two seasonally-occupied homes. Sites differed in temporal pattern of TN removal, and in four of five sites TN removal was greater—and effluent TN concentration lower—in the LCSTA than in a control STA containing only sand. The performance of non-proprietary LCSTAs was comparable to that for proprietary systems, suggesting that these may be a viable, more affordable alternative for lowering N inputs to receiving waters.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.