Wastewater & Onsite Systems
Wastewater treatment has been a primary focus for NEIWPCC since our inception more than 50 years ago. For many years, we played an important role in the planning, review and construction of wastewater treatment facilities in our member states. And we helped lead the effort to establish design standards for such facilities. As a result, rivers that were once open sewers are now much cleaner. But our work is not done. Water bodies that appear clean to the naked eye often contain pollutants that require constant and advanced treatment. Because of this, NEIWPCC has expanded the focus of our wastewater division to cover a broad range of issues.
NEIWPCC now plays an important role in the training and certification of wastewater treatment plant operators in our member states. Our Regional Training Program offers a wide variety of courses for operators at locations throughout New England and New York State. The Program typically conducts 50-70 courses per year that attract more than 1,500 students. NEIWPCC also administers the wastewater training programs for the states of Maine (through JETCC) and Massachusetts.
In recent years, NEIWPCC has also played a significant role in our region with programs designed to prepare operators to move into management. With many plant managers at or approaching retirement age, it’s essential to prepare talented operators to step into their shoes. In 2007, NEIWPCC worked with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management and Narragansett Water Pollution Control Association to develop Rhode Island’s first management training program for wastewater operators, the R.I. Operator Boot Camp. Other states have since followed Rhode Island’s lead, and, with NEIWPCC’s help, similar programs have been developed in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Connecticut. With each program, the goal is the same—to provide participants with the skills, knowledge, confidence, and contacts to become successful facility managers.
Our wastewater division has also expanded its focus to include such related issues as collection systems, certification, residuals, PPCPs, and technical assistance. NEIWPCC is also actively working on issues associated with smaller onsite or decentralized wastewater treatment systems, typically called septic systems. These small systems serve approximately 25 percent of the households in this country and approximately one-third of all new construction. There are enormous water quality issues associated with them that are only beginning to be understood. But progress is being made, thanks in part to NEIWPCC's involvement.
Workgroups are our primary tool for fostering collaboration on important wastewater issues. Wastewater Division staff meet regularly with representatives from the New England states, New York State, EPA, and other involved organizations. The workgroup members exchange information and ideas on current issues, initiatives, and technical projects. We have workgroups devoted to Wastewater Training and Technical Assistance, Training and Technical Assistance, Onsite Wastewater, Collection Systems, NPDES, PPCPs, Certification, USTs and Residuals.
Underground storage tanks or USTs have been a focus at the Commission since 1984, when NEIWPCC, EPA, the states, tribes, and other partners began working together to prevent, detect, and clean up leaks from the tanks, whose contents can seep into soil and contaminate groundwater. NEIWPCC has long been a sponsor of the National Tanks Conference and Exposition, and since 2006, the Commission has taken on the lead role for developing and coordinating the event, which is widely recognized as the place for the nation’s UST community to focus on progress and priorities. NEIWPCC also coordinates an UST, LUST, and State Fund Workgroup; publishes LUSTLine, a widely read national bulletin on tanks issues; and is providing critical assistance to member states working to develop federally required training programs for UST owners and operators. NEIWPCC is also working with state and EPA staff to develop and provide UST inspector training opportunities for state programs nationwide.
NEIWPCC’s Wastewater staff also work on an issue that as little as 15 years ago was on few people’s agendas—pharmaceuticals and personal care products or PPCPs. Now, this issue is a priority for our member states. To address the states’ growing concerns about PPCPs in the environment, NEIWPCC coordinates a PPCP Workgroup involving state, federal, and academic staff; and the Commission lead the development of the 2011 Northeast Water Science Forum, which examined the latest science on PPCP management.
For more information, contact Tom Groves, NEIWPCC's director of wastewater and onsite programs.