Variances For Failed Septic Systems In Little Pond Area Of Falmouth

Homeowners in Little Pond are installing new septic systems to meet Title V requirements for real estate transactions, even though a sewer system will be coming as soon as 2015.

At its June 2 meeting the Falmouth Board of Health discussed how to make the transfer of properties with failed systems in the area more financially practical, given that the town voted in May to build a sewering system in the area with a mandatory hook-up.

“It seems crazy that people are putting in septic systems when we will have a sewer in three years.” said board member John B. Waterbury, a biologist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

The board decided that a solution would be to issue variances for systems that meet certain requirements. The variance would allow the board to approve the system with certain provisions in this interim time before the sewer goes in.

Three cases of failed systems were brought before the board at the June 2 meeting. At least two owners had put in a Title V in the area for a sale recently, said board of health chairman Jared V. Goldstone, a toxicologist at Woods Hole.

The state Title V requirements give local boards the authority to offer variances in certain cases, Dr. Goldstone said. Septic systems in the area are eligible, given that sewering will be coming to the area and that installing a system, which can range from $5,000 to $10,000, only to fill it in a few years later can be considered an economic hardship for owners.


“The board of health does not want owners to go through an undue expense,” said board member George Heufelder, director at the Barnstable County Department of Health and the Environment.

The board will issue variances case by case if the system does not pose an immediate danger to public health, with certain provisions that can include using a tight tank, which has no outlet and must be pumped regularly, with a contract with a pumper in place. The board of health will need to be notified of each pumping. Also a system may need to have an alarm to ensure that sewage does not overflow into the ground. A letter from the board of health citing this variance will be registered with the deed to the house.

Dr. Waterbury recommended that real estate agents talk to the banks and assure them that the variances the board grants are Title V-compliant.

It is still up to the banks whether they accept this variance with their lending policies.

“We will present the current owner a record of variance and applying this variance will allow the legal transfer of property within the state law.” Dr. Goldstone said.

The decision offers yet another option, apart from installing a new system or tying in sewer betterment costs into an escrow account, which was discussed at the last meeting, for homeowners to present to the bank.

“This is a way to prevent a lot of capital expense going into the ground,” Mr. Heufelder said.


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