NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (WPRI) — Massachusetts lawmakers have filed legislation regarding proposed septic system regulations that could cost homeowners tens of thousands of dollars.

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Management (DEP) last year introduced a proposal that would require residents in several communities to upgrade their septic systems.

The proposal was created in an effort to control the amount of nitrogen pollution entering waterways.

The proposal as it stands right now could require homeowners in parts of Dartmouth, New Bedford, Westport and Fall River to shell out up to $50,000 to upgrade their systems in the next five years, according to some estimates.

One bill, sponsored by Sen. Mark Montigny and Rep. Chris Markey, would require the state to hold off on implementing the changes until they come up with a way to help residents afford them.

“[The changes] need to be done in a way that doesn’t bankrupt the average working family,” Montigny told 12 News. “It isn’t just because this is an expense … protecting the environment is expensive and we have to bear that burden. It was shocking and thrown at them without proper vetting from the public.”

Dartmouth Board of Health Director Chris Michaud believes the DEP changes are short-sighted and hopes the legislation will be a “wake up call” for the state.

“This is the worst possible time to be experimenting … to take people’s property from them, their septic systems, and say it’s no longer good enough,” Michaud said. “It goes with the old saying, haste makes waste, and it’s time to go back to the drawing board on this.”

The DEP is still accepting written comment regarding the proposed changes through Jan. 30, and are also holding two more remote hearings on the issue on Jan. 24 and 25. More information is available on the DEP’s website.