February 28, 2011 (Hopewell, NJ) – The Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association, central New Jersey’s first environmental group, is pleased to announce that the Rita Allen Foundation has provided the first wave of funding to create an innovative wetland-based wastewater treatment system at the association’s Watershed Reserve in Hopewell, NJ.
The Rita Allen Foundation’s $100,000 grant is the first step in fulfilling this groundbreaking multi-year $500,000 project. With this funding, the Watershed Association will be able to address an issue that is critical to every household, commercial development and institution in New Jersey – safe, effective and reasonably priced treatment and disposal of human wastewater.
“Failing treatment systems can have devastating effects on both human and environmental health,” said Jim Waltman, Watershed Association Executive Director. “Inadequate treatment of human waste from septic systems and sewer treatment plants can lead to harmful bacteria pollution of our water. In addition, excess nutrients can spawn algae blooms that suffocate fish and other aquatic life.”
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates at least one in 10 septic systems is failing – resulting in billions of gallons of inadequately treated human waste leeching into ground and surface water across the country each year.
In central New Jersey alone, the Watershed Association’s “State of the Watershed Report” shows that pollution from excess nutrients – from sources like leaking septic systems and sewer lines – is causing aquatic life in our waterways to falter. In addition, 15 of the 26 municipalities in our watershed region do not have strong enough ordinances in place to regulate septic system maintenance.
“The Rita Allen Foundation invests in innovative ideas to promote breakthrough scientific and social solutions that benefit our communities,” said Elizabeth Christopherson, President and CEO of the Rita Allen Foundation. “A cleaner environment and water are priorities for the benefit of all of us, and we are proud to partner with the Watershed Association to promote this concept with great potential to address a significant problem.”
Under the plan supported by the Rita Allen Foundation, the Watershed Association will be building a new wetlands-based wastewater treatment system at its 860-acre Watershed Reserve to show that there is a more effective, more energy efficient and less resource-intensive alternative to the traditional wastewater treatment system.
This system will be unique in its design to address the climate, hydrology and soil types of the Mid-Atlantic region, combining three distinct wetlands systems to cleanse wastewater more thoroughly than its predecessors. The project will be the first of its kind permitted in New Jersey. While the system will be most applicable to residential clusters and smaller office facilities, the value of this model and the associated research it will provide has the potential to dramatically change the choice millions make in how they are processing their wastewater.
The Watershed Association’s wetlands-based wastewater system includes treatment beyond that of traditional septic systems and sewer treatment plants. Conventional wastewater treatment primarily focuses on filtering out bacteria and does not address one of our region’s biggest threats – nutrient pollution.
The Watershed Association’s novel design will route wastewater through several different kinds of created wetlands, treating for both harmful bacteria and nutrients. The treated water will then be safely released into the environment.
“Traditional approaches to processing wastewater are allowing high levels of nutrients to move into our waterways. We cannot afford to continue this approach,” said Amy Soli, Ph.D., Watershed Association Science Director. “The innovative wetlands-based system that we are building will treat to higher levels than traditional septic and sewer systems.”
Environmental consulting firm Princeton Hydro, of Ringoes NJ, is designing the treatment system for the Watershed Association. In addition, the association is consulting with a number of distinguished academic scientists and professional engineers. After the current design and permitting phase, construction and habitat growth will take place, followed by a year-long effort concentrated on evaluation, education and outreach. The Rita Allen Foundation will continue to evaluate its partnership with the Watershed Association incrementally as the project progresses.
“Our hope is that this system, once proven successful, will become a model that can be replicated broadly by others,” said Mr. Waltman.
Images and interviews with Executive Director Jim Waltman, Science Director Amy Soli, Ph.D., and Elizabeth Christopherson at the Rita Allen Foundation are available upon request. To arrange an interview, contact Communications Director Gwen McNamara at (609) 737-3735 x16 or firstname.lastname@example.org <mailto:email@example.com> .
About the Watershed Association
The Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association is central New Jersey’s first environmental group, protecting clean water and the environment through conservation, advocacy, science and education. Since 1949, the Watershed Association has served a 265-square-mile region drained by the Stony Brook and Millstone River and spanning 26 towns and five counties. To learn more, visit www.thewatershed.org <http://www.thewatershed.org/> .
About the Rita Allen Foundation
The overall mission of the Rita Allen Foundation is to invest in transformative ideas in their earliest stages to leverage their growth and promote breakthrough solutions to significant problems. Areas of active interest include investing in young leaders in the sciences and social innovation, promoting civic literacy, and building stronger communities.
Based in Princeton, New Jersey, the Rita Allen Foundation was established in 1953. For many years the Foundation has sponsored a Scholars Program that has supported more than one hundred scientists and researchers over the last thirty years, many of whom have made important advances in medical research.
More information is available at: www.ritaallen.org <http://www.ritaallen.org/> .