General Information about Septic Systems
Local Boards of Health are the primary regulatory authorities. However, MassDEP is involved in certain approvals, including many innovative/alternative technology approvals, shared systems, large systems and many variance requests. In addition, MassDEP is responsible for overseeing local implementation of Title 5 and provides local governments with training and technical assistance.
Your first contact for questions about septic systems should be your local Board of Health
The most recent version of Title 5 (310 CMR 15.000) took effect on April 21, 2006.
A cesspool is a pit which acts as both a settling chamber for solids and a leaching system for liquids. The use of cesspools may overload the capacity of the soil to remove bacteria, viruses, and phosphorous, and to nitrify ammonia and organic nitrogen compounds. A conventional septic system has a tank where solids can settle and begin to degrade, a distribution box, and a soil absorption system (SAS) that further treats the effluent by removing some of the bacteria, viruses, phosphorous, and nitrogen.
No. Only those cesspools that exhibit signs of hydraulic failure, are located extremely close to private or public water supplies, or otherwise fail to protect or pose a threat to public health, safety or the environment will need to be upgraded (310 CMR 15.303). Also, cesspools must be upgraded prior to an increase in design flow (e.g., the addition of a bedroom to a home or seats to a restaurant).
The concept of maximum feasible compliance (MFC) is "do the best you can with what you've got." Wherever feasible, a failed system must be upgraded to full compliance with Title 5. If this is not possible, in many instances the local Board of Health is authorized to approve a Local Upgrade Approval that brings the system as close to full compliance as possible in accordance with certain minimum criteria. (310 CMR 15.404-405).
You generally will have to apply to the local Board of Health for a variance from Title 5 requirements. Title 5 provides a number of options for situations where a variance is required, including use of an innovative/alternative technology or a shared system.
In many cases, MassDEP also must approve a variance once it has been approved by the Board of Health.
Areas that have been determined by MassDEP to be particularly sensitive to pollution from nitrogen in sewage. Interim Wellhead Protection Areas and Zone IIs of public water supplies are specifically identified as nitrogen sensitive areas. Title 5 also allows for the designation of nitrogen sensitive embayment based on appropriate scientific evidence. (310 CMR 15.214).
Title 5 has special requirements for repairing failed systems and for the construction of new systems in Nitrogen Sensitive Areas. Talk with your local Board of Health or your system designer for details.[/url]
Tight tanks are similar to septic tanks, except that they have no outlet and must be pumped out at regular intervals. Title 5 strongly discourages the use of tight tanks, but they are allowed in situations where an existing system has failed and there is no other feasible alternative. Tight tanks are not allowed for new construction or increases in design flow.
Conventional septic systems are the most common type of septic system (the others are innovative/alternative (I/A) systems and cesspools). A conventional system includes a septic tank, distribution box, and soil absorption system (SAS). The septic tank separates the solid and liquid wastes and the SAS provides additional treatment before distributing the wastewater to the ground. Additional details on septic system maintenance are also available
Inadequately treated wastewater can transfer diseases such as dysentery, hepatitis, and typhoid fever to animals and humans. Failing systems also leak excessive nutrients and bacteria to rivers, lakes, and the ocean, destroying plant and animal habitat, closing beaches, and hurting the fishing industry.
Yes. Pumping your system costs between $150 and $250, and an inspection could cost $200-$400. Replacing a system could cost up to $40,000.
Pump your system at least every 3 years (annually if you have a garbage disposal). Conserve water. Don't dump non-biodegradables or trash down your toilet or sink.
Only sanitary sewage is allowed to be discharged to Title 5 septic systems. Paint and paint wastes should not be put into Title 5 systems because they can adversely affect their operation and may cause groundwater contamination.
Certain paint wastes may be hazardous and require special handling and disposal. Other paint wastes may be disposed of at local refuse disposal facilities.
When a property is sold or transferred the following must be done in order to comply with Title 5 Regulations: