NSU provides Groundbreaking Water Treatment Initiative for Sylvester Manor Educational Farm

Sylvester Manor Educational Farm installed an innovative wastewater treatment system on the property. The system is designed to recirculate wastewater through a subsurface, constructed wetland and will be used to treat the effluent water from cooking, laundry and restroom facilities serving the farm’s educational programs and general visitors. The project is the first non-proprietary commercial pilot system in Suffolk County, and the goal is to reduce contaminants in wastewater, particularly nitrogen compounds, before they travel via groundwater to the bays.

Excess nitrogen has been identified as a major cause of the algal blooms that have plagued surface waters and triggered fish kills. The installation of this system by Natural Systems Utilities takes advantage of natural processes.

As wastewater passes through the shallow root zone and 36 inches of gravel, the wastewater consumes the air in the media as ammonium is nitrified. Aerobic microorganisms attached to the gravel media and roots help process the wastewater. The wastewater then enters an 18” saturated layer where denitrification can occur. This water is then recirculated back to the septic tank, where waste provides the carbon for further denitrification to occur.

This natural filter will be insulated with a layer of peat mulch and planted with wetland and wetland meadow species. Plants and grasses, such as butterfly weed, purple Joe Pye and little bluestem will support local habitat as they uptake the excess nutrients and help purify the water.

Local excavator and licensed sanitary system installer Peder Larsen of Shelter Island Sand, Gravel & Contracting is coordinating the construction of the system with the engineering team from Natural Systems Utilities, which has built numerous similar systems in other parts of the U.S. Mr. Larsen is at the forefront of local contractors gaining expertise in implementing the new technologies Suffolk County is piloting; numerous local tradespeople have assisted with the project.

The project is funded from Suffolk County’s Water Quality Protection and Restoration Program and the Assessment Stabilization Reserve Fund 404 sewer infrastructure program. Additional support for this project is provided by a New York State Community Capital Assistance Program grant facilitated by NYS Assemblyman Fred Thiele; and by the board, staff and supporters of Sylvester Manor Educational Farm. Long Island Community Foundation granted funds for related education and outreach by Group for the East End and Peconic Green Growth. The NYS Center for Clean Water Technology is partnering through the contribution of supplemental monitoring devices for ongoing data collection and study.