These expensive but highly efficient onsite systems helped build installer’s reputation as a problem-solver


Turning dreams of owning an island home into a reality is a specialty of Penny Wright, owner of The Wright Choice Septics in Nottingham, New Hampshire. She has built her reputation by finding an onsite solution for every site.

“One would assume that soils, setbacks and access are the most challenging issues, but it sometimes is even more basic than that,” she says. “What do you design when pumping companies have no way to service the Isles of Shoals, a group of nine islands off the coast, and the islands in Lake Winnipesaukee?”

Wright found a Portsmouth firm, which is no longer in business, that manufactured septic tanks using space shuttle microwave technology, and she then designed systems around it.

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Each two-chamber unit is about the size of a household washer and dryer. The first chamber compacts the solids. The extracted liquid flows to an aeration pretreatment tank and is then surface discharged. “Two cases required UV disinfection to meet surface discharge standards,” Wright says.

When the compacted solids reach the size of a fireplace log, the log rolls into the second chamber. Microwave technology in that chamber incinerates the solids to several tablespoons of harmless ash. “This chamber had an optional decorative metal mantel and a sealed glass window that could be exposed to the living room, enabling homeowners to watch their log burn in the pseudo fireplace,” Wright says.

At the time, the units cost between $25,000 and $27,000, but low maintenance offset some of the expense. The septic tanks don’t require pumping and are energy efficient. The microwaves run for about 30 minutes once a week.

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Because the systems were pricy, Wright specified the technology only three times as a last resort. “Two of the systems are still running. It’s been 16 years for one and 13 for the other,” she says. “I don’t know about the third."


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