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We tested intermittent aeration of the soil treatment area (STA) of onsite wastewater treatment systems (OWTS) for its ability to restore and maintain STA hydraulic flow and improve the water quality functions of conventional OWTS. Evaluation was conducted on hydraulically-failed conventional OWTS at three state-owned medical group homes in Washington County, RI, USA. Testing was conducted in two phases, with Phase I (before intermittent soil aeration (ISA)) comprising the first 6 months of the study, and Phase II (during ISA) the remaining 7 months. Intermittent soil aeration restored STA hydraulic function in all three systems despite a marked reduction in the STA total infiltrative surface. Soil pore water was collected from 30 and 90 cm below the STA during both phases and analyzed for standard wastewater parameters. Although the STA infiltrative surface was reduced—and the contaminant load per unit of area increased—after installation of the ISA system, no differences were observed between phases in concentration of total N, NO3, total P, or dissolved organic carbon (DOC). Apparent removal rates—which do not account for dilution or differences in infiltrative area—for total N, total P, and DOC remained the same or improved during Phase II relative to the pre-operation phase. Furthermore, intermittent soil aeration enhanced actual removal rates —which do account for dilution and differences in infiltrative area. The effects of ISA on actual removal of contaminants from STE increased with increasing hydraulic load—a counterintuitive phenomenon, but one that has been previously observed in laboratory studies. The results of our study suggest that intermittent soil aeration can restore and maintain hydraulic flow in the STA and enhance carbon and nutrient removal in conventional OWTS.

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.