Island homeowners voice concerns over septic regulations

By Zarrin Tasnim Ahmed | Oct 06, 2016

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The issue with the old system, which Ethier said is outdated as regulations have changed in the state and in towns to be more environmentally-sensitive, is the amount of nitrogen displaced by the septic systems into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.

Comments (8)
Posted by: Spherebreaker | Oct 06, 2016 14:02

The Islands Association should work with the Town to see if and where they can tie into sewer and water and then get a price to have pipes put in. It can be done no problem provided there is capacity. Onset water district would love to have more customers to stick it to for a new Firestation 

Posted by: Mike | Oct 07, 2016 06:24

Spherebreaker they are already in the Onset Fire District.


Posted by: Cindy | Oct 07, 2016 09:21

Ah, we come full circle.  When I was on the BOS and we discussed possible areas to be sewered with CDM, one area that was brought up was Onset Island and the remaining Nanumett area as the sewer ended at the 'pillars' and at the time there were a couple of homes on the island trying to sell and 'squeeze' Title V systems in (by using to the centerpoint of the 'road' as additional land).  A conversation was had with property owners on the island and they had no interest in fact, it was a pretty vehement no.  Fast forward to today and generation changes as family gets older and wishes to sell and the time has come to 'pay the piper' so to speak.  No doubt it would have been way more affordable 14+ years ago when BOS made the inquiry as to their interest.  Unfortunately you always have to think for the future and not the now.  I hope they can come to some amenable solution.


Posted by: donknowlton | Oct 08, 2016 07:05

Force them into sewer like they did to so many others.

Posted by: cranky pants | Oct 09, 2016 08:45

Being on an island shouldn't grant you diplomatic immunity... This isn't Survivor.

How'd that saying go...

You gotta pay to play ?

Posted by: Spherebreaker | Oct 09, 2016 13:48

I suggest you contact the Clinton campaign, there will be plenty of pay to play involved if she gets in starting with the Mullahs. Just build a mosque out there and she will put the pipe in quicker than Bill is with his cigars

Posted by: greycat | Oct 09, 2016 18:18

What they need is a mini sewer plant of their own.  All the property owners would pay into the costs over a long period.  Keep the town government out of it as much as possible.

Posted by: Whm4now | Oct 10, 2016 22:37

So should they stop paying taxes?

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