Distributed Wastewater 
Management to Support Sustainable 
 Urbanism in New England Villages
             Juli Beth Hinds,...
• Practice in integrated water resource management – water 
  supply, wastewater & groundwater issues, watershed hydrology...
On‐Site Wastewater Systems are 
                           REALITY in much of New England




EXTENSIVE areas of New Engla...
Lack of wastewater treatment 
                          capacity threatens:

• Property values 
• Tax bases
• Density goal...
So what happens when you try to 
provide wastetwater capacity the old‐
fashioned way – with a sewer system?
Once there was a
  village by a
     flowing
  river…where
 happy villagers
   lived in a
    walkable
  traditional
  com...
And though their
 median incomes
were at or slightly
  below the USDA
   guidelines for
   low-moderate
    projects, the
...
The Villagers sold
pottery and organic
  woolen socks to
 tourists, who took
  pictures of their
       historic
    marke...
…and the river water
flowed by and bore their
      yuck away…
 …and the villagers
   were happy.
Then one day the
   Old Man of the
         River
   (management
 division) appeared
to the Villagers and
        said…

 ...
The Villagers
  trembled with
    fear at the
   dread word
 SEWER, for they
knew this to be a
  terrible curse
    that w...
They
 summoned the
     Wizard of
Engineers, who
said “Fear Not!
  I shall design
   you a sewer
   plant, dear
 villagers...
But time and change
orders passed…and then
   the Wizard said:

“I can keep the plague of
lawyers from you with my
MAGIC S...
The Villagers
   despaired! For
  there were only
  3,600 of them in
  the whole town,
  and their whole
village budget wa...
“hmmmm…” said
  the Wizard, “If
  you rezoned that
  farm land out
  on the highway
  for a power
  center, I bet
  there ...
Now the villagers were truly
miserable and began to fight.
Time Passed.
    Meetings dragged on.
       People shouted.
   Consultants were hired.

   The wizard conjured an
earmark...
The weaver of organic socks
  could not expand her
weaving studio, because she
 had an old septic system,
    and moved aw...
And the villagers were unhappy, and
the yuck flowed, and the Old Man of the
   River threatened, and the Wizard
   designe...
And so they puzzled…
  What would an affordable, 21-st century,
  sustainable wastewater system look like?

       One tha...
CONVENTIONAL SEWERS:  Call it “Peak Water.”
     The system of taking water out of the ground, fouling 
       it, moving ...
BUT HOW CAN THAT BE? 
DON’T WE HAVE TO HAVE A SEWER 
  SYSTEM TO CREATE A DENSE 
        COMMUNITY?

           NO!
Unsewered places have avoided
the water infrastructure equivalent 
                of…
For sustainability and density without 
 repeating the sad tale of the Villagers:

    Find a little land for the water  ‐...
YOU CAN HAVE 
                             DENSITY WITHOUT:
                             SEWER PLANTS
                    ...
Sustainable Water Infrastructure:
        Soil based, managed, and incremental

This…




                Without this.
Point 1!  Really Important!
                    SOIL BASED
• Sustainability requires 
  us to RE‐HYDRATE our 
  landscapes...
Point 3!  Really Important!
                       SOIL BASED
 BARRIER:  AN OUTMODED IDEA 
OF ‘PUBLIC HEALTH’ FOCUSED 
ON ...
Point 2: Hard for ‘Smart Growth’ to Swallow…
                  DISTRIBUTED
• QUIT MOVING THE WATER 
  AROUND!  It is hydro...
Point 2: Hard for ‘Smart Growth’ to Swallow…
                  DISTRIBUTED
“But our sewer district that controls growth…”
...
Point 3:
                 PROPERLY MANAGED
• Management programs with 
  professional oversight of on‐
  site or cluster s...
Point 3:
            PROPERLY MANAGED
BARRIER:  ENABLING LAW 
  & REQUIREMENTS FOR 
  MANAGEMENT 
  PROGRAMS 
**In AL, TN,...
Point 4:
       UTILITY FUNDED
We have only been willing to socialize the cost of wastewater 
 treatment one way:  convent...
Point 4:
     UTILITY FUNDED
BARRIER:  What is the method and legal 
  framework for socializing the cost of 
  infrastruc...
21st century water is a paradigm shift, and it’s 
             never going to be easy.  But for the sake of the 
         ...
Your Homework:  
• Get into the topic!  Get informed!
• ADD WATER AND HYDROLOGY to your thinking about “Green Buildings”!
...
…and your village and its
 water resources will live
   happily ever after.
             Disclaimer:
   No children were h...
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Cnu Sustainable Urbanism

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Cnu Sustainable Urbanism

  1. 1. Distributed Wastewater  Management to Support Sustainable  Urbanism in New England Villages Juli Beth Hinds, AICP Senior Project Manager – Planning VHB Pioneer North Ferrisburgh, VT
  2. 2. • Practice in integrated water resource management – water  supply, wastewater & groundwater issues, watershed hydrology, stream  restoration • Member, Water Environment Research Foundation’s  Decentralized Research Advisory Committee • Member, Water Environment Federation – Small  Communities Committee, US EPA’s MOU for Decentralized  Wastewater System Management • Signer, 2007 Baltimore Charter for Sustainable Water  Infrastructure
  3. 3. On‐Site Wastewater Systems are  REALITY in much of New England EXTENSIVE areas of New England… •Are NOT served by conventional sewer collection and  treatment systems,  •rely on individually owned and maintained on‐site wastewater  systems, and •Are in close proximity to important water resources:  rivers,  wetlands, Long Island Sound, ocean, estuaries, lakes
  4. 4. Lack of wastewater treatment  capacity threatens: • Property values  • Tax bases • Density goals • Affordable housing • Many CNU principles! • Community viability • Community resilience Wolcott Property Values; Waitsfield Elementary …it’s not so good for water  quality, either.
  5. 5. So what happens when you try to  provide wastetwater capacity the old‐ fashioned way – with a sewer system?
  6. 6. Once there was a village by a flowing river…where happy villagers lived in a walkable traditional community.
  7. 7. And though their median incomes were at or slightly below the USDA guidelines for low-moderate projects, the villagers loved their general store and their tidy homes and school and church…
  8. 8. The Villagers sold pottery and organic woolen socks to tourists, who took pictures of their historic marketplace. “Suckers,” the villagers laughed, “I can’t believe they spend twelve bucks on those socks!”
  9. 9. …and the river water flowed by and bore their yuck away… …and the villagers were happy.
  10. 10. Then one day the Old Man of the River (management division) appeared to the Villagers and said… How dare you foul my waters with your yuck! You must construct a SEWER SYSTEM or I shall send a plague of lawyers upon you!
  11. 11. The Villagers trembled with fear at the dread word SEWER, for they knew this to be a terrible curse that would bring them strife, expense, and long, late meetings!
  12. 12. They summoned the Wizard of Engineers, who said “Fear Not! I shall design you a sewer plant, dear villagers, and you shall not be plagued!”
  13. 13. But time and change orders passed…and then the Wizard said: “I can keep the plague of lawyers from you with my MAGIC SEWER PLANT, but it shall cost eighteen million dollars and ALL villagers must pay.”
  14. 14. The Villagers despaired! For there were only 3,600 of them in the whole town, and their whole village budget was only three million dollars each year. “That’s 1.5 million pairs of organic socks!” they cried.
  15. 15. “hmmmm…” said the Wizard, “If you rezoned that farm land out on the highway for a power center, I bet there are many stores that would come and THEY could pay for the sewer plant!”
  16. 16. Now the villagers were truly miserable and began to fight.
  17. 17. Time Passed. Meetings dragged on. People shouted. Consultants were hired. The wizard conjured an earmark, but it was too small, and the bond vote too large. The Old Man of the River thundered, but his words became empty threats and he offered no help.
  18. 18. The weaver of organic socks could not expand her weaving studio, because she had an old septic system, and moved away.
  19. 19. And the villagers were unhappy, and the yuck flowed, and the Old Man of the River threatened, and the Wizard designed, and there were no more organic socks to sell to the tourists.
  20. 20. And so they puzzled… What would an affordable, 21-st century, sustainable wastewater system look like? One that kept their lovely village, and let the weaver of organic socks expand her studio, and didn’t take all their money, and didn’t need a power center?
  21. 21. CONVENTIONAL SEWERS:  Call it “Peak Water.” The system of taking water out of the ground, fouling  it, moving it back to a plant, using a chemical and  energy‐intensive process, and discharging it to a  surface water (or worse:  the ocean) are so 19th century…or even Roman! Prediction:   We will spend as much time  and energy taking apart our  sewer infrastructure to re‐tool  it for hydrologic as we will  reusing mothballed malls and  power centers. . . Sewer mining, from  UTS‐Sydney …many water‐short places are  doing it already.
  22. 22. BUT HOW CAN THAT BE?  DON’T WE HAVE TO HAVE A SEWER  SYSTEM TO CREATE A DENSE  COMMUNITY? NO!
  23. 23. Unsewered places have avoided the water infrastructure equivalent  of…
  24. 24. For sustainability and density without  repeating the sad tale of the Villagers: Find a little land for the water  ‐ On (or very near!) your site And think of it like adding solar panels or  a wind turbine to your roof – it’s PART  OF the water grid!
  25. 25. YOU CAN HAVE  DENSITY WITHOUT: SEWER PLANTS $18 MILLION IN EARMARKS AND SUBSIDIES UNDESIRABLE GROWTH OPTIONS HYDROLOGIC DISRUPTIONS UNHAPPY VILLAGERS  ORGANIC SOCK SALES (unless you really want to) Solaire, Clerico Systems Orenco Systems
  26. 26. Sustainable Water Infrastructure: Soil based, managed, and incremental This… Without this.
  27. 27. Point 1!  Really Important! SOIL BASED • Sustainability requires  us to RE‐HYDRATE our  landscapes! • Put treated water right  back into the DIRT, let  the BUGS do their thing,  and RESTORE our  URI – Block Island hydrologic cycles! • Soil microbes, like  teenage boys, are dumb  enough to eat anything.
  28. 28. Point 3!  Really Important! SOIL BASED BARRIER:  AN OUTMODED IDEA  OF ‘PUBLIC HEALTH’ FOCUSED  ON CONTACT WITH PATHOGENS,  AND LACK OF RESPONSIBLE  MANAGEMENT – creates  regulatory blocks. Use management, technology,  and natural processes to clean  URI – Block Island I am not just a lawn! water, restore hydrology, and  support  urbanism. I am the perfect ecological buffer  between a livable human community  and the soil and hydrologic cycles! I am so totally cool!
  29. 29. Point 2: Hard for ‘Smart Growth’ to Swallow… DISTRIBUTED • QUIT MOVING THE WATER  AROUND!  It is hydrologically and ecologically disruptive  and uses enormous quantities  of energy!!! • Treat the water where the  people are – regardless!   Yarmouth, MA – use of drip  irrigation in road rights‐of‐way • We will steal as little of your  land for density as possible by  being creative with “land  leftovers.”
  30. 30. Point 2: Hard for ‘Smart Growth’ to Swallow… DISTRIBUTED “But our sewer district that controls growth…” • If your smart growth strategy or zoning  incentivizes conventional sewer over on‐site  systems, prevents sewer mining, or  discourages water re‐use, RETHINK IT or find a  new growth control tool…or else! You’ll get a visit from the old man  of the river!  
  31. 31. Point 3: PROPERLY MANAGED • Management programs with  professional oversight of on‐ site or cluster systems ensure  long‐term environmental  performance and viability of  wastewater investments • It’s managed professionally  like a sewer system  ‐ the  sewer guys just make house  calls! • Strongly encouraged by US  EPA as a LONG TERM solution  to wastewater needs • Who’s doing it really well?   University of Rhode Island On‐Site  Alabama, Loudon County Wastewater Training Center
  32. 32. Point 3: PROPERLY MANAGED BARRIER:  ENABLING LAW  & REQUIREMENTS FOR  MANAGEMENT  PROGRAMS  **In AL, TN, OK – great  source of green jobs  managing systems!! University of Rhode Island On‐Site  Wastewater Training Center
  33. 33. Point 4: UTILITY FUNDED We have only been willing to socialize the cost of wastewater  treatment one way:  conventional sewers. Subsidies, earmarks, and high costs create PERVERSE  INCENTIVES  Septic systems are ‘free,’ until they need a $20,000 home  equity loan for replacement. Huge need to develop funding models that fund incremental  replacements, and reflect cost and VALUE of treatment Basic principle:  public investment and oversight of systems  that have public benefits and costs, but are on private land.
  34. 34. Point 4: UTILITY FUNDED BARRIER:  What is the method and legal  framework for socializing the cost of  infrastructure that’s located on private  property…but has public impacts? VT:  Working on it.
  35. 35. 21st century water is a paradigm shift, and it’s  never going to be easy.  But for the sake of the  Villagers, please take this pledge: I hereby pledge that I will support new  partnerships and strategies for properly  managed, utility funded, distributed, soil  based wastewater systems to serve New  England villages and communities, and shall  no more say the words “septic” or “sewers,”  even though…hello…I’m an architect and I  cannot believe I had to listen to a talk about  SEWAGE!
  36. 36. Your Homework:   • Get into the topic!  Get informed! • ADD WATER AND HYDROLOGY to your thinking about “Green Buildings”! • CHALLENGE YOUR ENGINEER, or community, with an on‐site treatment or  re‐use idea! • REIMAGINE GREENSPACE for re‐hydrating our landscape and cleaning our  water! • Visit an on‐site training center! • Have your organization become an MOU partner for distributed  wastewater management: http://www.epa.gov/owm/septic/pubs/septic_mou.pdf
  37. 37. …and your village and its water resources will live happily ever after. Disclaimer: No children were harmed in the  filming of this presentation.
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