Local Officials Urge More State Funding if Title 5 Changes Move Ahead

HYANNIS – The Barnstable County Commissioners have sent a letter to the state saying that while they support the goals of their proposed Title 5 regulation changes, they are worried the costs will be mostly borne by the towns and residents. 

The changes would require residents to upgrade their septic unless their town applies for a 20-year Watershed Permit confirming they’re working on solutions to reduce nitrogen pollution, such as through sewering. 

Commissioner Chair and Yarmouth Selectmen Mark Forest said the proposal is a big change for towns that already made plans around larger time windows than the watershed permits would provide by default.

“In the case of Yarmouth and Barnstable, there’s plans there where we’re talking about significant amounts of money and those are plans that have already been approved. So to accelerate the time frame which is required under these proposed regulations would be an incredible expense,” said Forest.

Projected costs from March 2022 for Falmouth’s Comprehensive Wastewater Management Plan were just over $540 million. 

Forests says that the regulations are an overall step in the right direction for water quality, and mechanisms exist to extend the 20-year timeframe, but the process could put undue financial burden on locals, especially older populations and the year-round workforce.

“In Boston and up on Beacon Hill, people have this tendency to think that the folks that live here year-round are wealthy and are quite affluent, but the reality is our year-round population here on the Cape is often struggling. Retirees living on social security or purely on pension.”

Forest said that he would have liked to see American Rescue Plan Act funds set aside for wastewater improvements at the state level, but efforts like the county’s septic loan fund remain an option available for homeowners.

“We’re actually looking at expanding it and providing different forms of financial assistance for homeowners, but with these regulations the amount of money that would be needed to provide assistance to homeowners would be incredible,” said Forest.

“While we are anticipating more financial support, we’re not going to get nearly the kind of funding that we’ll need if indeed those regulations go through.”

The public comment process closed January 30 after already being extended once, but Forest said the state should continue another comment period to ensure as open a dialogue as possible on the issue. 

The state’s official webpage on the proposed changes 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 CapeCod.com News Center in 2019.

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