DARTMOUTH, Mass. (WPRI) — SouthCoast residents continue pushing back against proposed septic system regulation changes from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), which could cost tens of thousands of dollars per household.
“It’s bad government,” said Shawn McDonald, a member of the Dartmouth Select Board.
A spokesperson for MassDEP said the agency is currently reviewing the proposal, following a public comment period that was extended, following pushback from residents and municipal leaders.
“The Healey-Driscoll Administration is prioritizing public involvement as we continue to review the proposed Title 5 regulatory amendments and the proposed new ‘Watershed Permit’ regulations,” said Fabienne Alexis, a MassDEP Spokesperson.
The changes to Title 5 regulations are meant to cut back on the amount of nitrogen pollution from septic systems that ends up in waterways like Buzzards Bay, according to MassDEP, and to protect the natural resources and residents of Cape Cod, the Islands and Southeastern Massachusetts.
“I’m all for helping out if nitrogen is a problem,” Dartmouth resident George Marcotte said. “But to just push something by this quickly, for just a very limited group of people in the state of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, the Cape, it doesn’t seem right.”
Under the proposal, thousands of home owners in certain places, including areas of Dartmouth, New Bedford, Westport and Fall River, would need to upgrade their septic systems to “best available” technology, which residents said could cost anywhere from $17,000 to $75,000, or more, depending on how much of the system needs to be upgraded.
“We recently moved here from Connecticut and we have a brand new house with a brand new septic system, which is only 8 years old,” Marcotte said. “They’re saying that now the septic system, potentially, is not the right fix.”
Marcotte was one of more than 100 residents who attended a public information session on the issue, hosted by the Dartmouth Board of Health. Others who spoke at the meeting were concerned with how the changes would be implemented over the five year span that MassDEP is proposing.
“I’m an engineer by training, a systems engineer, and this is a half-baked engineering scheme,” said Don McCormack, who lives in Dartmouth. “There’s not enough people to do the work. We have regulations that are supposed to be enforced by the cities that have no numbers on them. It’s best available [technology], what does that mean? How does anybody plan for that?”
Members of the Dartmouth Select Board said they’re prepared to take legal action if necessary.
“We want to do the right thing, but we want to do it in a way that benefits everybody and is reasonable and no onerous,” McDonald said.
The public comment period on the proposed changes ended on Jan. 30. Now, MassDEP is reviewing public input to determine any applicable revisions.
“This public input is highly valued and will help shape the final regulations,” Alexis said.
MassDEP said it will notify the public when the review process is complete.