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The Commons
Town and Village

Windham Regional Commission, Rich Earth Institute seek neighborhoods for 'Village Sanitation Pilot Study'

If your neighborhood is interested and would like to learn more, contact WRC Planner Emily Davis at 802-257-4547 or edavis@windhamregional.org to schedule a neighborhood meeting. The Windham Regional Commission is one of 11 regional planning commissions in Vermont and since 1965 has been assisting the 27 towns in southeastern Vermont. Since 2012, the Rich Earth Institute has worked to advance and promote the use of human waste as a resource.

Originally published in The Commons issue #444 (Wednesday, January 31, 2018). This story appeared on page A3.


BRATTLEBORO—A new partnership project between the Rich Earth Institute and the Windham Regional Commission, called the “Village Sanitation Pilot Study,” seeks to engage neighbors in villages and community centers in the Windham Region.

The feasibility study will test, at a neighborhood scale, innovative wastewater solutions that can help address aging septic systems that hurt both the environment and homeowner wallets.

According to a news release, the program will help community centers address limits to development and water quality at no cost to the participants, while furthering the research of the Rich Earth Institute as they explore the use of human waste as a nutrient resource for agriculture.

“Village centers are cultural and commercial centers of local communities, but small lot sizes make on-site wastewater system maintenance and upgrades challenging, and expansion nearly impossible,” according to the release.

One of the goals of this effort is to explore the extent to which innovative sanitation technology that diverts urine from the wastewater stream can be a part of the solution to on-site wastewater treatment problems and challenges in village settings.

The idea is that waste that would normally be flushed into a septic tank is instead collected through a simple, clean system that diverts waste for use by local farms who volunteer their pastureland for application.

The end result is improved on-site wastewater management, reduced nutrients and bacteria finding their way into ground and surface water, and a source of fertilizer that supports the productivity of pastureland.

In the news release, WRC Natural Resources Planner Emily Davis said, “There may be a bit of an ‘ick’ factor anytime you think about how human waste is disposed of, but once you see the sanitation systems that have been developed by the Rich Earth Institute, it makes a lot of sense to pursue it.”

Rich Earth Institute Founder Kim Nace said, “We’re thrilled to expand our research to a neighborhood-scale pilot. We want to learn from the experience of neighbors adopting a new approach to wastewater management so that experience can be shared.”

From February through March of 2018, the Rich Earth Institute and the Windham Regional Commission will meet with village stakeholders and neighbors to explain the program, after which interested communities may submit a letter of interest to be considered as the subject of the pilot study.

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