Village Sanitation Pilot Study
The Village Sanitation Pilot Study (VSPS) is a partnership project between the Windham Regional Commission and the Rich Earth Institute that is taking a new approach to common wastewater problems that affects many communities in our region.
We are working with two villages in Windham County: West Dummerston and Westminster West, in the Towns of Dummerston and Westminster.
Together with participating homeowners, we will be conducting a feasibility study in each neighborhood, examining the potential impacts of community-scale alternatives to conventional septic systems, such as composting and urine-diverting toilets. To do this, we will conduct in-home site visits with all the participating and consenting homeowners to learn about the specific needs of each home, identify feasible alternatives, and zoom out to study the conditions of the landscape (such as soil data, superficial geology, and topography).
The VSPS addresses broken nutrient management cycles, limits to desirable development, and financial barriers to maintaining these systems, which hurt our historic civic centers over time. Exploring alternative wastewater systems may produce benefits for human health and community, housing, and economic development.
We believe that this study will have meaning to other communities in Vermont that are also dealing with these challenges.
Design the survey methods, identify scope of study.
Begin to compile mapping data, develop working maps of villages.
Host launch meetings in Westminster West and West Dummerston.
October - November
In-home site visits begin.
Optional well testing begins.
In-home site visits wrap-up.
Optional well testing wraps up.
Remote data collection continues as needed.
December 2018 - February 2019
Study data compiled and interpreted.
Customized recommendations developed for homes, distributed as needed.
Village report development begins.
February - March
VSPS Feasibility report draft completed.
Community meetings to review study findings and discuss potential community impact.
Review next steps and pathways for implementation (as outside of this feasibility stage).
VSPS feasibility study complete.
From Idea to Reality...
It all started with a thought.
Two Brattleboro-based organizations, the Windham Regional Commission (WRC) and the Rich Earth Institute (REI) knew that there were overlapping goals within two seeminlgy different interests: community planning and urine diversion.
The WRC is a regional planning commission that assists 27 municipalities in the Windham region of southeastern Vermont with sound community planning. The REI conducts scientific research that supports the vision of a "world with clean water and fertile soil achieved by reclaiming the nutrients from our bodies as elements in a life sustaining cycle."
We asked, how can community-scale urine diversion technologies…
Promote compact village development by reducing the need for individual septic systems?
Reduce a village’s wastewater load so that a decentralized system may be more financially feasible?
Remove nutrient loading from septic systems to enter our waterways?
Help promote meaningful nutrient recycling in our rural, agricultural communities?
When ideas take hold.
In January 2018, the WRC and the REI developed a Call for Letters of Interest, recruiting communities to submit Letter's to be considered for this competitive project. The selection process was designed to be competitive, since there were many benefits to being the Village that is part of the Pilot Study:
For the Town and Village…
- Village center planning related to wastewater systems.
- Understanding of wastewater management issues confronting home and business owners.
- First steps towards the development of a larger wastewater feasibility study.
For participating neighbors and neighborhoods…
- Free consultation regarding viable alternatives to conventional septic systems and human waste management.
- Access to professional and scientific resources related to wastewater management.
- Consultation on the potential for reduction of homeowner maintenance costs.
- Depending on the site, may in time avoid costs for developing or upgrading wastewater septic systems by increasing their capacity through elimination of the human waste stream into the system.
- Ability to participate in scientific research about our wastewater systems on a neighborhood scale.
- Pioneering a potentially revolutionary technological and cultural human waste management practice.
For the region as a whole…
- Taking action to support the sustainability of our villages.
- Leading the state on actively addressing the problem of on-site wastewater management in our village centers.
- Ability to highlight the innovative projects and organizations that we have in our region, namely the prominent work of the Rich Earth Institute.
By the end of February, the VSPS partners received two very strong Letters from the West Dummerston and Westminster West neighborhoods. While the original intent was to only involve one village as a partner, the WRC and the REI together believed that including both would ultimately make the study stronger.
See the Call for Letters of Interest here (coming soon).
See the VSPS selection press release here (coming soon).
Starting in October 2018 and extending through December, the VSPS project will work with ecological sanitation planners from Nutrient Networks, Inc, to perform an individual site visit for participating homeowners in the two villages.
These site visits are designed to provide participants and the project partners with enough information about the individual homes that, when collected, will support a comprehensive ecological sanitation strategy for the community as a whole.
The VSPS team will be using this website to post updates, stories, and other findings as the project progresses. So check back in soon! In the meantime, Contact Us if you have any thoughts or questions.