Barnstable County Raises Questions on Proposed Septic Amendments

Cyanobacteria at Goose Pond. MassDEP officials said the new regulations aim to cut down on nitrogen pollution in local waters that can lead to the bacteria. Town of Chatham.

HYANNIS – Barnstable County officials said that they will likely need to step up support for towns in light of recently proposed amendments to Title 5 regulations by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. 

Homes near watersheds on Cape Cod would have to upgrade to the best available nitrogen reducing technology within about five years, unless the local town obtains a Watershed Permit. 

Commissioner Mark Forest said the state will need to provide some assistance to communities if the amendments are approved.

“If they really want to see this initiative have any degree of success whatsoever, they’re going to have to write a big check to Barnstable County, the [Cape Cod] Commission and the support staff for boards of health. There’s just an enormous amount of work that’s going to come this way,” said Forest at the most recent board meeting.

He added the change would likely change plans for their upcoming septic loan program, as well.

“We have to be very careful in terms of rolling out this program in January because the demand is going to be much larger than what we anticipated originally. We need to make sure that we have the formal request for money and resources 

A watershed permit would give communities 20 years to implement other nitrogen solutions, but they can re-apply for more time. 

Commissioner Chair Sheila Lyons said the regulations are a long-time coming and will help towns to focus on applying for watershed permits.

“This is really an effort to get the towns to get their acts together and start filing these Watershed Permits so that they’re showing MassDEP that they’re serious about addressing their water issues,” Lyons said.

Environmental Specialist with the county Brian Baumgaertel said the framework is sound and will lead to positive change, but questions remain about how exactly the initiative will be executed. 

Falmouth recently questioned the proposed amendments, with Plymouth/Barnstable State Senator Susan Moran outlining some objects to the plan due to the town’s disproportionately large amount of estuaries

The public has until 5 pm on December 16 to comment on the amendments, information for which can be found here.

About Grady Culhane

Grady Culhane is a Cape Cod native currently living in Eastham. He studied media communications at Cape Cod Community College and joined the News Center in 2019.
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