Island homeowners voice concerns over septic regulations
Nearly a dozen residents of Onset Island approached the Board of Health on Wednesday afternoon voicing their concerns over septic tank regulations.
The residents, who currently own old septic systems that fall under Title 5, are required to upgrade their systems in accordance with updated town and state regulations. Homeowners interested in selling their houses must change their systems before putting their houses on the market.
"What concerns me is that we have several potential buyers and we have sent them to the town to get some clarification and they came back puzzled," said homeowner Judy Barber. "My main interest here is to try to define what the options are: would sewer be an option? would water be an option? If so, how much?"
"There are a number of issues involved in it," said Health Agent Bob Ethier.
"It's a different system on the mainland versus the island. They have a conventional Title 5 which they have to change over before selling."
According to the Energy of Environmental Affairs, Title 5 is another name for the State Environmental Code Regulating Septic Systems. The regulations govern septic systems and the transporting and disposal of sanitary sewage. Town governments enforce Title 5 on behalf of the Commonwealth.
The issue with the old system, which Ethier said is outdated as regulations have changed in the state and in towns to be more environmentally-sensitive, is the amount of nitrogen displaced by the septic systems into Onset Bay.
Korrin Petersen, Senior Attorney for Buzzards Bay Coalition, explained to homeowners that although high amounts of nitrogen in water does not adversely affect humans, even low amounts of nitrogen can disrupt the ecosystem of the bay.
Another issue is having to pump septic systems out at least twice a year with the old system, said Etheir. According to Petersen, newer systems need pumping every two or three years. The only way to do so for inhabitants of Onset Island is get a boat powerful enough out to the island and pump back to the mainland.
At the meeting, residents and officials discussed alternatives for the homeowners. Some of the alternatives include composting toilets, denitrification systems, and blackwater tanks.
Ethier suggested homeowners tie into the town's sewer system, where waste is treated at a plant and is "significantly better" than anything coming out of the pumps. However, such a project requires building a pipe out to the island, which could cost residents approximately $300,000 altogether.
"The price may not be ideal, but they'll never have to worry," said Ethier.
Jeff Meeks of 14 Plymouth Blvd. agreed with Ethier.
"The best thing is to get town water and sewer... it's been a concern for a long time," he said.