What is an I/A OWTS (Nitrogen-reducing) Septic System?

If you’re building a new home or considering updating your home’s sanitary system, you may have heard the term I/A OWTS. You may have also heard that these nitrogen-reducing septic systems help protect the environment.

But what exactly is an I/A OWTS septic system, and what are the benefits of installing one?

What is an I/A OWTS Septic System?

I/A OWTS stands for Innovative / Alternative Onsite Wastewater Treatment System. These septic systems are specially designed to remove nitrogen, helping protect water sources and reducing environmental impact.

Old and outdated septic systems do not remove nitrogen, so it leaches into the ground and contaminates local water sources.

According to the EPA, at least 2.6 million septic systems are located in nitrogen-sensitive watersheds. These systems can contribute to nitrogen loading that harms local water sources.

Upgrading to or installing new I/A OWTS systems can help prevent nitrogen loading.

Here’s how an advanced OWTS system works:

  • Ammonia is converted into nitrates. This is known as the nitrification step. ATUs, gravel, or sand can be used for this process.
  • Bacteria removes the oxygen in the nitrates, leaving nitrogen gas behind.
  • The nitrogen gas is safely released into the air. Nitrogen gas accounts for 78% of the air we breathe.

So, an I/A OWTS system simply converts ammonia into nitrogen gas, which prevents the contamination of water sources.

With a conventional septic system, the wastewater flows down from the tank through a pipe and into the distribution box. From here, it’s channeled into pipes set in gravel trenches. The water then seeps slowly into the soil in the drainfield. These systems do not take additional steps to remove nitrogen from the wastewater.

What are the Benefits of an Advanced Septic System?

If you’re constructing a new home, you may be required to install an I/A OWTS septic system. But if you’re updating your current sanitary system, you may be wondering why you should invest in an advanced, nitrogen-reducing septic system.

An advanced system offers a few benefits compared to a conventional septic system.

Helps Protect Local Water Sources

When old and outdated septic systems leach nitrogen into the ground, it contaminates local water sources.

Excess nitrogen contributes to harmful algal blooms. Nitrogen feeds algae and other aquatic plants. The greater the nitrogen levels, the greater the algae growth. Eventually, the growth gets out of control.

Harmful algal blooms can:

  • Prevent sunlight from reaching into deep water
  • Consume dissolved oxygen as they decompose
  • Clog water intakes
  • Contribute to fish deaths

Some algal blooms are also harmful to humans. Additionally, these blooms can impact the aesthetics of local waterways and emit unpleasant odors.

Installing an advanced septic system can help protect local water systems by removing nitrogen before it leaches into the ground.

Grant Programs Can Help Offset Costs

An I/A OWTS system does have a higher upfront cost compared to a conventional anaerobic system. However, these costs can often be offset by local grant programs.

Many homeowners have most or all of the costs associated with their advanced septic installation covered through these grant and rebate programs.

An I/A OWTS septic system is a more advanced and eco-friendly way to treat wastewater. By installing an advanced septic system, you are doing your part to protect waterways and prevent harmful algal blooms.

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