Westport offers low-cost loans to those with failed septic systems

Upper Westport River.

The push to repair failed systems is driven in part by concerns over elevated nitrogen levels in the Westport River.

The push to repair failed systems is driven in part by concerns over elevated nitrogen levels in the Westport River.

The Town of Westport is now offering low interest betterment loans to homeowners with failed septic systems through the Commonwealth’s Community Septic Management Program.

Interested homeowners can apply through the town’s Board of Health. To be eligible for the program, homeowners must have a failed septic system and be in good tax standing with the community.

Westport’s Town Meeting approved a $500,000 authorization in November, 2012, to borrow the money from the Water Pollution Abatement Trust, the state’s revolving fund program, at 0 percent interest for up to 20 years.

The community then re-loans that money directly to homeowners at a 2 percent interest rate for up to 20 years through a “betterment” — a financial agreement between a homeowner and the community. This is a long term, low interest loan that is paid off over time as an additional charge on a homeowner’s property tax bill and is payable with the tax bill. A betterment represents a municipal lien on the property and runs with the property deed. There is no penalty for an early repayment of the loan.

According to information released by the Westport Water Resources Management Committee, the program targets homeowners with failed septic systems for repair or upgrade to Title 5 standards. Also eligible for funding are innovative/alternative systems, or zero pollution discharge systems, like composting toilets, if approved by the Westport Board of Health.

The betterment will cover the total cost of the existing septic system repair or replacement, including permitting, engineering, installation and inspection costs. The program does not cover the upgrade of a system solely to accommodate expansion of a home, or for septic repairs on commercial properties.

The betterment program does not raise taxes, the Water Resources Management Committee said. Primary loan repayments from the community to the Water Pollution Abatement Trust are paid by the homeowners using the program.

Since the inception of the state septic loan program in 1997, in Southeastern Massachusetts alone over 5,600 failed systems have been repaired or replaced, and more than $60 million dollars has been loaned directly to homeowners.

For more information, contact the Westport Board of Health at (508) 636- 1015.