Retrosilient Technology Development

Focus: Water Quality Restoration

Retrosilience is the study of retrofitting built structures or technology to be sustainable and resilient. Retrosilient Technology is retrofitting an existing piece of technology to become more resilient. One of the Institute’s first retrosilient technology development solutions will focus on regional water quality restoration..

Water quality protection has emerged as the leading environmental need and challenge for the Peconic region. Specifically, mitigating the impact of nitrogen pollution from household cesspools in the area’s bays, ponds, rivers, and aquifers. There are over 340,000 onsite septic systems in Suffolk County, representing 70-75% of the population’s domestic wastewater treatment (Peconic Green Growth 2012). It is estimated that more than half of these systems are functioning below optimal performance, or simply failing.

Research led by scientists at Stony Brook University’s School of Atmospheric & Marine Sciences (SoMAS) has clearly identified the link between nitrogen pollution emanating from household septic systems with reoccurring harmful algal blooms and the widespread loss of eel grass (Zostera marina). The widely publicized consequences of this pollution and resulting algae blooms include catastrophic damage to the shell and finfish populations, the occurrence of “dead zones in once bountiful and pristine marine habitats, and a reduction in natural protective barriers to coastal erosion and storm surge. In a region where the environment is the backbone of the local economy, failure to provide solutions that address the root causes of water degradation threatens the sustainability of the Peconics.

At present the availability of approved alternative onsite treatment systems that can meet recommended nitrogen standards is very limited. Additionally, the cost of system installation is approximately $30,000-40,000 per home, plus annual maintenance. Policy makers, homeowners, and environmental advocates are sensitive to the reality that such a cost is simply too great to require.

In simple terms, an affordable retrosilient technology is needed to retrofit or replace existing septic systems that can achieve adequate denitrification levels.


Role of the Institute

The Institute will utilize science, business, political, and community resources to:

  • Define the core criteria of technology or menu of technologies needed to adequately address nitrogen pollution emanating from household wastewater.
  • Generate community support for and investment in the effort to fund the development of retrosilient technology that meets the core criteria.
  • Launch a request for proposals and establish a “Competitive Challenge Grant” to design retrosilient technology or technologies that  meet the defined criteria – and attract top talent to answer the challenge locally, nationally, and internationally.
  • Fund the development of a proposed technology and rigorously test the resiliency of the technology.
  • Bring to market a proven retrosilient technology that will help play a role in restoring and protecting local water quality.

For more information on a Planning Methodology for Establishing Need for Decentralized Wastewater Upgrades based on Environmental Conditions, please go to Peconic Green Growth.


Contact us if you would like more information on this specific activity or how to become a Institute Partner!

Email Executive Director John Botos: JBotos@peconicinstitute.org