Noquochoke Village Affordable Housing With Stringent Water Requirements

Nov. 12, 2021

High strength membrane bioreactors provide decentralized wastewater treatment solution in Westport, Massachusetts

About the author:

Jennifer Cisneros is vice president of marketing for BioMicrobics Inc. Cisneros can be reached at [email protected].

The Boston-based developer of the Noquochoke Village affordable housing project had an uphill battle with proposing affordable housing in Westport, Massachusetts. This new development plan would provide affordable, residential apartments in the town – which there was very limited affordable housing in Westport. The project was met with challenges, cost limitations, special permits and push back from the town’s current residents.

“As the design engineer of record for Noquochoke Village, we took the task of designing a wastewater treatment system that met State requirements, local Westport Board of Health, and enhanced nitrogen sensitivity considerations imparted by the local estuary commission seeking a 5 mg/L.” said Phil Cordeiro of Allen & Major Associates, Inc.”In evaluating system design alternatives and service vendors. We were pleased to coordinate with J&R Sales and Service (J&R), who brought a wealth of knowledge to the design team on how a BioMicrobics [BioBarrier MBR] system can meet the demands, be adjusted based on varying field conditions, and be reliably maintained,” 

The site called for the construction of 50 affordable apartments to individuals and families “across a wide range of income levels and ability,” according to a presentation given in 2016. The proposed seven buildings on site will be clustered on the front portion of the site, on the eight acres of land once known as the Perry Farm, with about 23 acres near the river known as the Quinn property to remain undeveloped for trails and passive recreation.

Calculating the flows, the combined buildings would generate 9,990 gallon per day – just under the 10,000 gpd threshold for MA groundwater discharge permits, which require a more elaborate permitting process and a full time operator. 

Meeting Total Nitrogen Limits (TN)

The project originally had state total nitrogen (TN) limits of 25 mg/L. However, the planning board and the town ultimately set for the property limits on less than 5 TN at the outlet of the treatment system, and a Net Zero TN at the property line. The BioBarrier high strength membrane bioreactor (HSMBR) system manufactured by BioMicrobics Inc. was the viable treatment option to meet those requirements. 

With the construction of the facility that took longer than anticipated, J&R and Wastewater Treatment Services, Inc. (WTS, Inc.) began working with Allen & Major Associates, Inc. to design a decentralized, community-based, Aerated Membrane BioReactor System in the summer of 2018.  

The system, installed and started up in May of 2019, consisted of:

  • a flow equalization tank;
  • BioMicrobics SaniTEE effluent screens;
  • Two BioBarrier HSMBR 6.0-N (~6,000 gallons per day each) with a two compartment anoxic zone;
  • An alkalinity feed system was installed but currently not needed, as is the MicroC to be available as a carbon source; and
  • Geoflow drip tubing for dispersal.

Construction & Confirming Affordability

During the construction process, J&R was ever present to provide hands-on guidance to the site contractors to ensure all workmanship met the design specifications. J&R techs provided physical assistance for the installation of plumbing, controllers, and other system elements. 

Once in the design phase, J&R handled all aspects of system startup. This included chemical seeding and laboratory monitoring. The biggest challenge was getting the project approved with pushback of concern with subsidized housing. J&R attended town meetings and gave presentations to support the engineer in his arguments to help to achieve the goal of 10% subsidized housing inventory, etc. 

The Geoflow drip tubing system was used for an SAS to reduce TN further by nitrogen uptake, to meet the Net Zero at the property line. The BioBarrier has exceeded expectations by consistently producing a TN of less than 5 mg/L without a daily operator or much modification to the operations.

“We think the most interesting part of this project is the less than 5 mg/L TN limit, and that BioBarrier was the only technology that could meet this limit,” said Lauren Usilton, president of J&R Sales & Service. “This was our first project with that low of a TN limit. We have definitely had to operate this site with more scrutiny than others. It’s not autonomous like the FAST wastewater treatment systems that we also get from BioMicrobics; but we have been pleasantly surprised that the system has reacted well to fluctuations in temperature, flows, and influent strength. 

Usilton also noted that the performance of the system and how it impacts the surrounding area became a selling point when talking to townsfolk.

“We live in Westport, so it’s been nice to be able to point to a facility in town that is performing so well and providing such low TN limits given its proximity to conservation lands” Usilton said. “We have been able to use this site for a reference and have another system going into Westport at the newly built Middle-High School in the upcoming year.”

Cordeiro added that the coordination between A&M, J&R and BioMicrobics beneficially served the community and system.

“The J&R team provided a number of design considerations and worked with A&M to fit the site constraints,” Cordeiro said. “The J&R and BioMicrobics team provided literature that was used during the local permitting process to ensure all local requirements are being met inclusive of a comprehensive operation and maintenance package and servicing” 

Happy Residents & Happy Operators

With a residential project that occupies in phases, the wastewater chemistry required steady upfront adjustment to confirm that effluent parameters remained below regulatory thresholds regardless of loading rates. This was and remains true. With the site fully occupied, J&R remains under contract as the wastewater operator. They have provided educational literature and guidance to the Noquochoke Village facility manager for use with residents. The ongoing testing results have exceeded all expectations in meeting the low effluent strength thresholds set by local permit. 

“Weighed against the other potential treatment vendors and operators, the BioMicrobics system was approximately 70% of the competitive costs. This savings was a direct benefit to the non-profit nature of the Community Builders as the developer of the land in conjunction with the Westport Housing Trust,” concluded Phil Cordeiro.

With a greater awareness and growing demand for modern, environmental technologies and services, BioMicrobics, its divisions and subsidiaries will address the needs of the world’s most challenging water issues in the residential, commercial, municipal, marine decentralized wastewater and stormwater treatment markets.