Brown Water Falls Into A Gray Area At Little Pond In Falmouth

At the April 14 Falmouth Board of Health meeting, Barry E. Connors of Ashburnham asked whether he should replace the failed septic system at his house on Chestnut Street, which is in the Little Pond sewering area. The house is for sale and it is set to close this month.

“I came here to hear what you all say,” Mr. Connors told the board, “so I can make a choice.”

The board decided to compose a letter addressing this interim issue to provide homeowners with the answer they need to move forward with a sale before the town vote in May.

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“We are a little bit in a gray area,” said board member Stephen Rafferty. “Once the town goes to the ballot, we will know what’s coming.”

If the vote passes, the protocol for failed inspections in the area will change, but in the meantime standard rules that require that the owner pays for a plan and and upgrade may not be fair to homeowners.

“I don’t feel good on not making someone aware that they may spend $1,500 to $2,000 on a plan if they won’t need it in a few weeks,” board member George Heufelder said.

Mr. Connors will not be the only one with these concerns in the coming weeks.

“I have four realtors calling tomorrow morning with the same question,” said assistant health agent Scott McCann.

Mr. Connors said that coming into the meeting he had three options, replace the septic system, don’t replace it and risk losing the buyer, or do what the board tells him.

“As I am sitting here, I am thinking is this crazy to be putting in a new septic at this time?” Mr. Connors asked.

If the voters approve the debt exclusion in May, the sewer system should be done and ready to hook up in about two and a half years, Mr. Rafferty said. The pump station will take about a year and a half to complete, but the laying of the pipe should go rather quickly.

“Half of the project is like putting gas mains in,” Mr. Rafferty said.

Mr. Waterbury cited a solution that homeowners at New Silver Beach used. Put money in an escrow account to either pay for the septic upgrade or sewer betterment depending on what the vote decides. This is a way that banks may approve a mortgage without the Title Five upgrade.

The board decided to compose a letter for Mr. Connors and other sellers in the same predicament. They can delay work on the septic system until the town vote, providing that there is not an immediate failure or health hazard to the system and if there is regular maintenance and pumping. If the sewer does not pass at the town vote, owners will need to pull permits to upgrade within 60 days. If the vote goes in the other direction, owners will have a window of five years to hook up to the sewer system. After that time, however, if for some reason there is no sewer present, they must upgrade the septic system. Sellers can decide whether they want to set up an escrow account to fund either outcome.

“With this letter in hand, the seller can sit with the buyer and make a decision,” Mr. Waterbury said.

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